Tips for Staying Safe Online

Here are some tips for protecting your computer and staying safe online.

Protecting Your Computer

  • Use antivirus software:
    • There are a number of free ones out there such as Microsoft Security Essentials and AVG.
    • Make sure it is set to update with new definitions daily at a time that your computer would normally be switched on.  You can normally find the option to change this in the area labelled as Settings/Preferences/Options.
    • Scan your hard drive once a week.
  • Make sure your firewall is enabled.  If you bought a security package along with your anti-virus software this will contain a firewall.  Otherwise you can use the one built into your computer software:

Email

Be cautious when opening emails you receive.  They can be used for a variety of dubious purposes:

  • Spam: A sales pitch.
  • Phishing: An attempt to get you to part with personal data that could be used in fraud or identity theft.
  • Transmitting Viruses: When a virus infects your computer it can be used to:
    • Send spam or copies of itself to all your friends, to infect their computers.
    • Capture personal data to defraud or impersonate you, e.g. online banking login details.
    • Use your computer to attack a company or organisation as part of a denial of service attack.

Some dangerous emails may look like they come from your friends.  These can get sent out by viruses that have infected their computers.  Be wary of any email that does not any personal information other than your name.  Your name can be automatically added to the text of the email by the virus that sent it.

Hint: If you are unsure of a link in an email do not click it.  if you hover over the link you can see the real website it will take you to – this may be different from the one it looks like it would go to.

Report any scam emails to Action Fraud.

Browsing the Internet

You should be safe enough browsing the internet if you stick to reputable sites.  You are unlikely to run into problems on the sites of well-known high-street stores.   Many of us want to explore further than that, so here are a few safety tips:

  • When buying goods online (or providing personal data) make sure the address either begins with https: or has a padlock symbol.  These indicate that the site is secure and your data is safe.  If you do not see one of these security measures, then do not enter personal data or payment details:
  • Consider how much personal data you wish to publish, particularly on social media sites such as Facebook:
    • By default such sites tend to make most information you publish available to the whole world.
    • Consider going to the privacy settings and making your data and posts only available to your friends.
    • A good rule of thumb is only to be friends online with people you know in real life.
    • Publishing when you are going away on holiday may tell thieves when your house will be empty.
    • Advertising your party online may mean you end up with more guests than you intended!
    • Giving away too much personal data online could lead to your identity being stolen.
  • Pop-up banners with special offers may not be what they seem.  Beware of “free sample” offers – particularly if they ask for payment details.  These can be ways of getting hold of your card details to charge you much larger amounts.
  • Be careful when clicking on links to visit a free site’s sponsor – they have been known to link through to pornographic sites or worse!
  • When online banking:
    • Only go to the published site that your bank provides you with.
    • Be aware that emails that look like they come from your bank may not be genuine, so do not click links in these emails.
    • Read any guidance that your bank provides on staying safe online.
    • Install any additional security software your bank offers you, such as Rapport.
    • If a pop-up window appears asking for your online banking details, this is likely to be a scam, so do not enter your details.
    • Always log out after you have finished banking.
    • If in doubt about anything when online banking, exit the site, do not enter any personal information and contact your bank via their published telephone number on their website for advice.