This year, most people and businesses have relied on the internet far more than ever before. Unfortunately, at the same time, the level of online crime and other harms has also substantially increased.
This information is intended to cover the most basic practices that we all need to follow in order to protect ourselves from the most common online threats against ourselves, our families, our finances and devices.
Your top tips for keeping safe online
- Choose, use and protect passwords carefully, and use a different one for every online account in case one or more get hacked. Try using three random words and strengthening them with numbers, symbols and combinations of upper and lower case letters.
- Ensure you always have internet security software (often called anti-virus/anti-spyware) loaded on computers and a similar app on your mobile devices, and that this is kept updated and switched on. Remember that smartphones and tablets can get infected in a similar way to computers.
- Always apply updates to operating systems and software on your computer and apps on your mobile devices. Many include vital security updates to avoid hacking or malware.
- Never assume that Wi-Fi hotspots in places like cafés, bars and hotel rooms are secure, so don’t use them when you’re doing anything confidential online. Instead, use your data, a mobile broadband modem (dongle) or if it’s for work, a VPN (virtual private network).
- Always consider that online or on the phone, people aren’t always who they claim to be. Fake emails, texts and phone calls are a favourite way for fraudsters to approach their victims.
- Don’t click on links in emails, posts, tweets of texts – and don’t open attachments – if the source isn’t 100% known and trustworthy, or it seems strange that you’d be receiving them.
- Never pay for anything by direct bank transfer – including goods, services, tickets, travel and holidays – unless it’s to someone you know personally and is reputable.
- Never reveal too much personal or financial information in emails, on social networking and dating sites and in person. You never know who might see it, or use it.
- Always report fraud or abuse to the appropriate authorities.
There are also two other golden rules you should remember: think twice, because everything may not be as it seems, and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Get comprehensive online safety information and advice at www.getsafeonline.org.