Staying secure online can often seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.
The Government’s Cyber Aware campaign, which follows advice and technical expertise from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a part of GCHQ, offers the following simple advice to help you to improve your online security.
The key behaviours to help you improve your online security are:
- Install the latest software and app updates
- They contain vital security updates which help protect your device from viruses and hackers
- Security updates are designed to fix weaknesses in software and apps which could be used by hackers to attack your device. Installing them as soon as possible helps to keep your device secure
- You can choose to install updates at night when you are asleep and your device is plugged in or set your mobile or tablet to automatically update your apps when you are connected to Wi-Fi and an update is available
- You can also set laptops and desktops to automatically install software updates when an update is available
Use a strong, separate password for your email account (you can use three random words or numbers to create a strong password)
- Hackers can use your email to access many of your personal accounts, by asking for you password to be reset, and find out personal information, such as your bank details, address or date of birth, leaving you vulnerable to identity theft or fraud
- Having strong, separate passwords for your most important accounts means that if hackers steal your password for one of your less important accounts, they can’t use it to access your most important ones
- Make sure your password is easy for you to remember, but not easy for others to guess e.g. Pa55word may follow the rules of using letters and symbols but is well known amongst hackers as a common password
- Don’t use words which would be easy to discover from your social media accounts, such as your child’s name or favourite sports team
Other behaviours which can help keep you secure online include:
Secure your tablet or smartphone with a screen lock
- Give your device an extra layer of security by setting it to lock when you aren’t using it
- Screen locks provide an extra layer of security to your device, as each time you want to unlock it or turn it on, you will need to enter a PIN, pattern, password or fingerprint
- This means if someone gets hold of your device they can’t access the data on your device without entering your password, pattern, PIN or fingerprint
Always back-up your most important data
- Safeguard your most important data such as your photos and key documents by backing them up to an external hard drive or a cloud-based storage system
- If your device is infected by a virus or accessed by a hacker, your data may be damaged or deleted, which means you won’t be able to access it. Backing up your data means you have another copy of it, which you can access
- Remember that spammers could also gain access to a friend’s account, so if you get an uncharacteristic email containing a link from a friend, do not click on it but find another way of contacting them to check that the message is genuine.
- Leave a website if you feel suspicious – if the site doesn’t look or ‘feel’ right, if there is text that doesn’t appear to have any purpose or doesn’t tie in with the rest of the site, or if you feel uneasy for any reason.
- Regularly check your social media privacy settings to control exactly what you’re sharing with whom.
- If you’re going away on holiday, don’t advertise it on social media!
- If you use a wireless network at home, password-protect it.
These simple steps can go a long way to helping you to stay secure online. For more information visit https://www.cyberaware.gov.uk