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How to Stay Safe Online

For most of us, it’s hard to remember a time when the web wasn’t so woven into everything we do. It’s so common that we’ve come to take the internet for granted. Unfortunately, threats and those who design them take advantage of this. Fortunately, you can protect yourself with some basic awareness of what to look out for.


1. Be Careful with Public Wi-Fi

Everyone uses public Wi-Fi; coffee shops are offices away from the office for millions of people. However, your sensitive data is at risk so try to avoid using them whenever possible. Stick with networks that have a secure connection, ie one which requires a password.


2. Use Security Software

Most devices come with a pre-installed antivirus software package. Most email services filter your emails for those with malicious intent and quarantines them. Don’t become too reliant on these basic packages and consider investing in a dedicated package.


3. Use Strong Passwords

Did you know that despite all the warnings, the most common password is password? Adding a number to the front isn’t much better. For strong passwords, choose a combination of small and capital letters, numbers and special characters. Better yet, select a sequence of unrelated words with some special characters mixed in.


4. Never Give Out Passwords

Your bank or other service provider will never ask for your full password. At best, they will ask for specific digits such as the 4th and the 7th digits. Also, never give your password to friends or family. If their device is compromised, so are your accounts.


5. Beware of Phishing

Phishing is simple, but effective, relying on a lack of concentration on the part of the victim. Such emails pretend to be from your bank or a retailer claiming a problem with your account. They then ask for your login details. These are fake; genuine accounts no longer provide links in emails so log in the usual way via the website.


6. Don’t Download Unsolicited Attachments

Similarly, you should never download attachments from email addresses you don’t recognise. Even when you do recognise the email address, exercise caution. Your friends and family all have a certain style. If something about an email feels slightly off, check with the person who sent it before opening.


7. Stop Doing Social Media Quizzes

There are two types of social media quizzes. The first asks a series of questions which then requires access to personal data such as birthdate and contacts list before giving results. The second is the “What Is Your Star Wars Name Based on Your Birthday?” type of question. Scammers accumulate this data to attempt to access your accounts.


8. Use Trusted Review Sites

Finding new services is part of the joy of the internet. Most new businesses are legitimate, but there are still scam sites out there. If you’re ever unfamiliar with a website, use a trusted reviewer like Trustpilot or Reviewcentre to ensure that the site is safe. They accumulate user experiences and give a trust rating based on real-life reports.


9. Don’t Put Off Device Updates

Most people habitually put off a device update until a more convenient time; they then forget about it for weeks. Most of the time, such Windows updates are security patches for a newly discovered vulnerability. Always update immediately or as soon as you are able.


10. Don’t Add Strangers to Social Media

Do you accept connection requests from complete strangers? Everyone you connect with has access to personal details you post on your timelines. They will see all your connections and could attempt to hack your accounts with personal information you offer freely.


Don’t worry, simply by exercising a little bit of caution you won’t be caught out by the scammers. You wouldn’t give out personal information to a stranger who asked you on the street, so be just as careful when you are online.