Tipsheet: Shopping Online? U.Va. Expert Has Advice on Internet and Computer Security

November 29, 2010 — With the continued growth of online shopping, and today's "Cyber Monday," Karen McDowell of the University of Virginia is available to help your audience or readers keep their computers, their identities and their credit cards safe.

McDowell, an information security analyst in U.Va's Information Security, Policy and Records Office, regularly makes presentations on avoiding common online hazards, such as phishing, worms and viruses, and credit card and identity theft.

She has worked in information technology for more than 15 years. Around 1999, she noticed rapidly growing threats to computers and networks and began to study them. She also worked on learning how to keep computers safe, and how to fix infected computers. She began writing about these problems in 2004 to reach a broader audience.

McDowell continues to study security issues and presents updated information to individuals and groups. She has presented at numerous conferences, including an international conference held in Canada, and has published articles on information security.

Some of her advice:
•    Delete email from unfamiliar sources.
•    Don't provide personal information unless you initiated the contact and know who you're dealing with.
•    Keep hardware and software patched and up to date to ward off viruses, worms and malware.
•    Beware of shortened links on social media sites… you don't know where they'll take you.

McDowell also has anecdotes about cyber-mishaps. To arrange an interview, contact Marian Anderfuren in U.Va's Office of Public Affairs at 434-243-2293 or

Media Contact

Marian Anderfuren

Director of Media Relations U.Va. Media Relations