Staying safe online
Back in December 2020, we broke the news on our brand-new blog series, It’s Personal, which will lift the lid on how you can better protect your personal information online, and the little things to look out for that could stop you falling victim to cyber-crime.
We’re kicking of this new series with a pretty general concept, but one that goes a long way in terms of personal privacy and preventing online fraud – how to stay safe online.
It sounds simple enough, but you’d be surprised how many hacks there are out there that enable strangers to get their hands on your information and use it to their advantage.
So, with the help of our It’s Personal partners, our cyber security team at ZeroDayLab, we’ve come up with a list of the top simple things you can do to ensure your online safety.
Shake up those passwords.
You’ve heard it all before, we know, but this is one of the simplest and easiest ways to keep your personal information safe online. If you’re worried about forgetting your different passwords, you can use a free password manager (such as Dashlane or LastPass) to help you store and create strong passwords for all of your accounts.
Switch on two-factor authentication.
This feature isn’t available on all online accounts, but where it is, we highly recommend flicking it on. This ensures that multiple pieces of information are required to verify you when you log in (such as provide your password, plus enter a code sent to your mobile phone).
Annoying? Mildly. Worth it for peace of mind? Totally.
Keep your network secure.
At home or work, you’re fairly safe using a password-protected router that encrypts your data (this means that it’s not visible to anyone else). But, if you’re hitting up your local coffee shop to do a bit of work, or heading to the library to focus, you may be tempted to join the free, public Wi-Fi.
Public Wi-Fi is often unsecured, which means it can be relatively easy for someone with a bit of know-how to access your device or your private information.
A way around this can be to invest in a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which creates a secure connection over the internet so you can roam freely. VPNs (such as Proton VPN or Nord VPN) are great for that added security, but they often come at a cost, so it may only be wise to invest in one if you’re frequently out and about.
Install a wall.
A firewall, that is. A firewall is an electronic ‘barrier’ that blocks any unauthorised attempts to access your devices. Even if your network is secure, it’s probably still a good idea to have a firewall installed as an added layer of security, as it ensures that all devices connected to your network are secured, even things like smart thermostats and webcams. Most anti-virus providers will have this bundled in, so make sure it is enabled.
Think before you click.
Online threats are evolving all the time, so make sure you know what to look out for. In fact, many of today’s online threats trick you into willingly revealing personal or sensitive information for fraudulent purposes.
This can come in the form of a seemingly innocent email from what may appear to be a colleague when in fact, it’s come directly from a scammer. Or ‘spam’ emails that contain fake offers, online quizzes and more to entice you to click on dangerous links or give up your personal information.
Always be wary of offers that sound too good to be true, or that ask for too much information. If it seems suspicious, don’t respond or click any links within the email. Simply delete it and move on.
When shopping online or doing some online banking, always make sure that the site’s address starts with ‘https’ (instead of just ‘http’), and has a little padlock icon in the URL field at the top of the screen. This shows that the website is secure and uses encryption to scramble your data so it can’t be intercepted by others.
However, some malicious websites may still have this, so its always important to double-check the site address you are on – if it doesn’t look right to you, don’t enter any information.
Also, look out for websites that have misspellings or bad grammar in their web addresses or on the actual webpage, as these could be copycats of legitimate websites.
Remember – always be cautious about what you do online, which sites you visit, and what you share.
This includes keeping all your software updated so you have the latest security (you can turn on automatic updates so you don’t have to think about it), and make sure that your security software is set to run regular scans.
Taking preventative measures like the ones above can save you from headaches later on.
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