Staying Safe Online

The Internet can enrich our lives and open us up to a wealth of information and accessibility. But with more people around the world using the Internet for various activities, there has also been a sharp rise in ‘cybercrime’ as criminals look to take advantage of people on the Internet. But with just some basic knowledge, common sense and vigilance, the Internet can be a great and very safe tool for all of us.

Spam email and scams

The purpose of spam emails could be to infect the user’s computer with malware, gather sensitive personal details, or pull the user into a scam. Many web-based email services are able to filter out potential spam. But cybercriminals and hackers have adapted to measures put in place by webmail services. So spam mail can still fall through the net. As a general rule do not reply to, or download or open attachments or links in emails where any of the following applies:

  • The email is asking you to “confirm” login details or other sensitive information
  • Is sent from an email address that does not seem to be from the company the sender claims to represent
  • Requesting immediate payment of some kind or making an offer that seems “too good to be true”
  • Contains links that do not match the web address of the company the email sender claims to be from
  • Contains attachments that are unsolicited or that you would not be expecting

If you receive an email that you believe to be fraudulent, block the sender and delete the message. DO NOT reply to the message, even to tell them to leave you alone. All this will do is let them know that your email address is actively in use and you will likely make yourself, even more, a target for spam mail.

Passwords and sensitive data

It’s important to keep passwords private and secure. The best passwords include a mix of letters, numbers, and other random keyboard characters, and are not all in upper or lower case. Choose a password that is something you can remember but will not be easy for somebody to guess and try to use passwords that are not identical to your other passwords. Better still, try to make use of a password manager such as 1Password, DashLane or LastPass.

Viruses, spyware, worms and Trojans

Viruses are one of the most well-known threats to computers. But there are some misconceptions about them. Viruses are only one form of malware (harmful files or programs) that exists. Other common types are spyware, trojans and worms.

Antivirus software alone is not a foolproof deterrent to viruses, spyware, Trojans and other malware. It is important to keep antivirus software up to date to reduce the likelihood of your computer being affected by malware. But even computers with up to date antivirus software can and do fairly often get infected with malware so it is still important to browse safely and be vigilant.

Making note of the above advice when online will make the Internet a safe and valuable tool for you. If you would like more information on online safety and security there is lots of information available from trusted sources such as Age UKCERT UK and Safer Internet UK.