Staying safe online

Whether you go online to keep in touch with family, work from home or go shopping, it’s important to know how to stay safe online to protect your personal data.

Here we’ll cover some of the main things you need to do to stay safe online.

This is even more important if you’re unable to leave the house and are more reliant on the web for daily life.

The basics

  1. Understand the risks. Below we outline some common online scams and terminology, so that you know what you’re protecting yourself against.

    1. Keep your device protected. Make sure you update your device with the latest operating software as this usually includes important security updates. You should also consider downloading anti-virus/ anti-malware software to give your device an extra layer of security (examples…).
    2. Protect your wireless network. Make sure you have a password set for logging into your wireless network, otherwise people from outside of your household might be able to access your network without your knowledge.
    3. To enhance your password security make sure your passwords are difficult to guess. Use different passwords for different sites for the best password protection. The most safe passwords include a combination of letters, numbers and special characters.
    4. Don’t click on links from unknown sources, it may be a fake email. Whether it’s an unusual looking email or an unsolicited instant message, don’t click on links unless you’re 100% sure it’s from a trustworthy source and you recognise the website it’s taking you to.
    5. Only allow download of the software you want. When downloading a piece of software, pay close attention to what it’s asking you to download. Make sure it’s not adding software that you might not want and which may slow down or damage your device.

    Safety when using communication tools to stay in touch

    You may be using new and unfamiliar social networking or video conferencing tools to keep in touch with your family. When using these tools, be aware of all of the points above, especially if you’re downloading new software. Make sure that you only accept invitations from people you know. To keep the highest standard of email safety if you receive an invitation to a chat and you’re not sure if it’s real, always check with the originator to be sure that it’s genuine.

    Things to look out for

    1. Computer viruses.These are pieces of software that may damage your computer or steal your data. Always make sure that you know what you’re downloading and that it’s coming from a trusted source.
    2. Fake websites. Always check that the website you’re using is secure (there will usually be a padlock or something similar in your browser bar, next to the web address). Fake websites might look real, but look out for misspellings or an unusual domain name. Only enter your data on websites you trust.
    3. Email scams. Similarly to fake websites, you might receive emails pretending to be from a trustworthy contact. Always check that the sender email is from a trusted website domain and never enter your personal details if you don’t trust the sender.
    4. Relationship scams. On social media, people may befriend you with a view to getting you to share personal data or send money. Only provide information to people you know and trust as this may be a kind of identity theft.

    Although the internet is a great tool, there are people out there who will take advantage of lax security. As long as you keep yourself safe and secure though, you’ll be able to keep in touch with your friends and family and take advantage of the convenience that it gives us.

    Glossary

    Here are some common terms you may hear relating to internet security.

    • Adware: Malicious software that causes advertisements to pop up on your screen. These ads may link to inappropriate or illegal websites.
    • Antivirus software: Software that you can install on your device to monitor, prevent and scan for viruses and other malicious software.
    • Bloatware: Additional features included with a piece of software or a device that you don’t want/need, and which aren’t necessary for the running of the software/device.
    • Hacker: A person who illegally accesses a website to either change the content of the website or access the data held on the site. Hackers aren’t always malicious but they could be accessing information that you don’t want them to access.
    • Identity theft: Stealing someone’s identity and using the information to pretend to be that person online. This is usually with an aim to access other pieces of personal information, such as bank details.
    • Malware: A piece of software that intends damage to your device, such as a virus (see below).
    • Pharming: Trying to steal personal data by creating fake versions of existing websites, for example a fake version of your online banking page.
    • Phishing scams: Sending out fake emails to try and encourage you to click through to a site (e.g. a pharming site) and provide your personal or bank details.
    • Spoofing: Similar to ‘pharming’, this involves creating a fake version of a website to try and get you to enter your personal details.
    • Spyware: Malicious software that spies on what you do on your device, usually with the aim to steal your personal data or passwords.
    • Trojan horse: A piece of software that looks useful but contains malicious software that will damage your device.
    • Worm: Malicious software that can spread to other devices on your network.