The Internet is an essential part of modern daily life. But along with the conveniences afforded by online services, there are also legal risks. And while staying safe online is often a matter of common sense, it is important to constantly take stock of your own Internet practices to make sure you are not inadvertently exposing yourself to illegal activities.
The Internet Is Always Watching You
Indeed, it may seem obvious to state, “Do not do anything illegal online!” But many people are still lulled into a false sense of security by the superficial anonymity of the Internet. A common example of this is someone who makes “anonymous” threats against other people on social media. Keep in mind, even if you establish a social media account using a pseudonym or assumed identity, there are relatively simple ways for service providers (and law enforcement) to trace threatening posts and messages to their source. Any time you communicate online, you need to assume your actions are being monitored. That is being vigilant, not paranoid.
Avoid Potentially Compromising Situations
Many people go on the Internet to seek a sexual or romantic relationship. There is nothing wrong with such relationships when they are between consenting adults. The problem is, the person you that meet online may not be a consenting adult. A minor may lie about his or her age. Law enforcement officials also frequently pose as minors hoping to entrap unwitting individuals. In either scenario you may be charged with online solicitation of a minor, even if you had no intention of doing so. To protect yourself, you might want to avoid soliciting potential partners in unregulated online forums such as chat rooms and instead look to a reputable dating or social networking website where it is easier to verify someone’s age.
Report Any Illegal Activity You Find Online
Again, it should go without saying that you should never—under any circumstances—use your computer to access or store child pornography. However, you may still be unwillingly exposed to pornographic materials, say through an unsolicited email or an insecure website that redirects you to such materials. If you come across any example of child or pornography, you should report it immediately to the appropriate authorities, such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline.
Take Steps to Secure Your Own Devices
Even if you do nothing wrong with your computer or smartphone, someone else may be able to gain access to your devices and use your data for criminal activity. The best defense to such “hacking” is to be smart about your personal online security. Always use strong passwords for all of your accounts. (Also, never use the same password for more than one device or account.) If you step away from your computer, make sure to lock the screen or shut it off. And make sure the operating system on your computer is always kept up to date and has an appropriate level of antivirus and malware protection enabled.
Get Help From a Houston Sex Crimes Attorney
If you have been charged with a crime arising from computer or online activity, you need to take the matter seriously. Such cases usually involve highly complex technical questions as well as matters of law. An experienced Houston Internet crimes lawyer knows how to handle these complexities. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you need to speak with a criminal defense attorney right away.