In today’s technology-driven world, it’s rare to see someone not attached to a Blackberry, iPad or MacBook. Individuals have become so dependent on these snazzy devices that often they don’t realize that the very thing they crave and “just can’t live without” can also be the most dangerous thing they’ve ever encountered.

Many people are unaware of how their private lives and the lives of friends and family can be threatened by criminals going through their mobile devices or computers. When personal information, such as social security numbers, family addresses and business records, is not securely locked and protected, that information can be accessed by anyone. According to experts at the FBI, education on safety tips is the best guard against these emerging technology attacks.

“Getting educated and taking a few basic steps may well keep you from becoming a victim of crime and fraud – and save you a great deal of time and trouble,” states the FBI’s Crime Smart website.

The FBI website goes on to explain that the most easily accessible way into a person’s private life is through the computer, and in just a few short steps individuals can protect their homes, businesses and families from becoming theft targets.

FBI experts recommend always keeping firewalls on to protect computers from hackers. It is also advised to be careful of download activity, as many free downloading sites don’t have closed or secured networks. Hackers often roam these open networks searching for ways to gain access to computers to delete or steal sensitive information.

The FBI also recommends obtaining and using special protection software on computers and mobile devices to protect against or track criminal activity. Antivirus software, like Norton Security Scan, and antispyware, such as Prey software, are valuable and inexpensive tools that can be readily downloaded from secured sites to protect individuals from unwanted, malicious activity.

Recently, “Good Morning America” covered the story of a software programmer who was able to recover his MacBook after it had been stolen. Joshua Kaufman installed special software that tracked and photographed criminal activity on his stolen laptop. Authorities were able to follow the information provided by the laptop’s software to apprehend the suspects and return the laptop to its owner.

More and more success stories of blocking and tracking theft with the help of protection software are coming out.

Safety experts also warn individuals to protect themselves when it comes to newer technology threats on social media sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

According to safety and identity theft expert John Sileo, although social networking sites are useful tools for career and business opportunities, people must be extremely careful about what information they choose to put online and how to adequately protect it.

“Unfortunately, most people dive head first into this world of social connectedness without thinking through the ramifications of all the personal information that is now traveling at warp speed through cyberspace,” states Sileo on his website.

Sileo’s website points out that as perhaps the fastest growing and most popular networking site, Facebook alone is a breeding ground for theft and other criminal activity. In his book {Facebook Safety Survival Guide,} Sileo explains easy tricks to protect oneself on Facebook, including closely managing privacy settings and keeping a watchful eye on what friend requests are accepted.

In addition to the software and media networking protection tools, FBI experts remind people to go back to the basics when it comes to protecting their private lives. Always remember to turn off or password lock computers and mobile devices when left unattended, and never keep sensitive information like social security numbers and bank account codes on mobile devices or on your person.

For questions or more safety tips on ways to guard against technological criminal activity, visit http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/ or check with your local police department.

Ashley Crawford

Special to the AFRO