How to stay safe online
18th September 2022
The internet is a fantastic resource and has become an integral part of everyday life. It enables you to stay in touch with people, to access information inaccessible anywhere else and gives you the freedom to do your shopping, banking and even work, all from the comfort of your own home. This is something that can be incredibly beneficial to stair lift users and those with limited mobility.
However, the internet can also be an intimidating and sometimes dangerous place, especially if you don’t know the pitfalls to look out for.
But how can you stay safe online? In this guide, you will find a collection of advice and pointers to protect your security on the internet, covering a range of topics, from emails and online banking to internet shopping and social media. So, read on to discover some great tips for how to be safe online.
Don’t reveal too much personal information via email
If you are wondering how to stay safe on the internet, one of the most important things to keep in mind is who you are sharing your personal information with, particularly credit card numbers and bank details. As the UK’s leading source of unbiased, factual information, Get Safe Online provides easily digestible information on online safety.
Covering everything from identity theft and viruses to how to protect yourself online, Tim Mitchell from Get Safe Online offered his advice on how to approach emails:
“Never reveal too much personal or financial information in emails, on social networking and dating sites and in person. You never know who might see it or use it.”
This scenario is most commonly associated with emails, but Tim Mitchell does reiterate that you should be careful with your personal details in a variety of situations or scenarios:
“Always consider that online or on the phone, people aren't always who they claim to be. Fake emails and phone calls are a favourite way for fraudsters to approach their victims.”
Check the address the email comes from before interacting with it
One of the easiest things to do is to check where the email has come from. It may have a name of a store in the email address or say where they are contacting from. For instance, the email may come from someone who is claiming to be from your bank.
If they have not specified exactly the company that they work for, or if it is an email that does not relate to any recent activity you have had with them, then you should avoid the email and delete it.
Don’t open attachments from email addresses you don’t recognise
You may also receive an email with attachments. Attachments from anyone can contain a virus, even if it is from a friend or family member. But when it comes to an email from an email address you do not recognise then you should avoid the attachment and delete the email.
Tim Mitchell explains: “Don't click on links in emails, posts, tweets or texts - and don't open attachments - if the source isn't 100% known and trustworthy, or it seems strange that you'd be receiving them.”
If an email offer looks too good to be true, it probably is
Joe Siegrist, VP and GM at LastPass has some advice on emails. LastPass is a password manager for your computer, which safeguards and protects your data. Joe shares:
“Phishing is an email scam trying to steal valuable information from users and is fast becoming one of the biggest risks to unsuspecting web users. Even people who like to think they know about security often fall victim to scams. The most successful phishing emails are typically disguised to look like they come from a known or reputable source and usually contain attachments or download links to malicious software.”
“Being ‘phished’ is problematic because it could lead to revealing personal details such as your bank, health or personal identity data. A common ploy by hackers is telling you your password needs a re-set, or that your bank needs you to re-enter details. Legitimate organisations typically do not request sensitive information via email. Never respond to emails that request personal information, but rather call the organisation directly or log in to your account directly from the website. Additionally, you can always check if the website you are visiting is secure by looking for an ‘https’ in the address bar.”
One of the best ways to stay safe online is to follow the best practices when it comes to online banking. Online banking is simply a means for you to access your bank account and complete transactions through the internet.
Most of the time, this service is free from your bank and will mean that you can do anything from paying your bills to sending your friend some money.
It is a lot safer than many people think, but this is only as long as you enter the right details and follow the rules.
Do not pass on your bank details via email
When you start using online banking you should always check your statement for any unusual behaviour regarding your account, then report it immediately to your bank. It is very important and worth reiterating that under no circumstances should you send your bank details to anyone via email. Your bank will never ask you to divulge information in this way.
Log out of your account when you are finished
Remember to log out – or sign out – of your session when you have finished using the online banking service. If you just close the tab or the browser, you could potentially allow someone who has access to your computer, legally or illegally, to resume your session and access your details. When it comes to banking online, you should never compromise on safety so take an extra second to locate the ‘log out’ or ‘sign out’ button before finishing.
Utilise different passwords for your online accounts
Your password should be personal and secure; Tim, from Get Safe Online, strongly advises that you have a different password for all of the sites or accounts you use. This is one of the best tips to be safe online. We understand that it can be a challenge, but taking the time to create different passwords does mean that you are more secure:
“Choose, use and protect your passwords carefully, and use a different one for every online account in case one or more get hacked.”
At the end of the day, passwords often provide access to your most personal details, so Joe Siegrist of LastPass has shared his best advice on securing your passwords: “Humans are inherently bad at remembering passwords – but here’s how to do it securely:
“We hear of people’s data being compromised every day, but many people continue to reuse passwords across their accounts, despite the obvious risks. It’s often too late by the time news of a hack reaches us, but the good news is you can take precautionary steps to make your data secure.
“Using unique passwords for all your online accounts ensures that if they’re leaked in a breach, they can’t be used by hackers to get into any of your other accounts. A password manager, such as LastPass, is a secure way to generate long, complex and unique passwords without relying on your brain or a piece of paper to remember them. Better yet, it’s easy to import log-in details from all the accounts associated with your email address, and they’re encrypted.”
Many websites currently require you to use complex, strong passwords, including letters, numbers and special characters. This is a good habit to get into even when a website or app doesn’t have any special password requirements.
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Browsing online and shopping
Only buy from online shops that you trust or can verify
If you ever have any doubt about the site that you are shopping from, look for their contact information. If they don’t have a phone number, be cautious, but if they do then we would recommend giving them a call and enquiring from there.
As Tim says, you should only buy from stores that you trust and use regularly: “Never pay for anything by direct bank transfer - including goods, services, tickets, travel and holidays - unless it's to someone you know personally and is reputable.”
Treat online shopping like a high-street shop. If you can picture the likes of Marks and Spencers, John Lewis, and Argos on the high street then it is worth using their online stores. It is the safest bet when it comes to buying anything online; use a recognised and credible store that you are already familiar with.
You can consider reading this guide to shopping online, which lists a number of credible sites that might already be familiar to you. It also offers you several helpful resources and tips that you can use when you are making a purchase.
Many outlets online require you now to ‘sign up’ and ‘register’ with them. This is fine when it is with a recognised and trustworthy site, like John Lewis. Here you have the option to save your contact and banking information for future purchases. This is where a secure and unique password is important.
Look out for the padlock symbol in the address bar
This applies to all websites but particularly when you are divulging payment details. When you arrive at a website, look to the address bar at the top of your web browser and to the left of the website’s URL, you should see a little padlock symbol. This means that the site is secured with a digital certificate and any information sent between your browser and the website is sent securely and can't be intercepted by someone else.
Use secure public Wi-Fi
When out and about, connecting to public Wi-Fi networks can be very handy when wanting to look up something online. However, it’s important to only use secure Wi-Fi that requires a password to login into. If you must access a public Wi-Fi that is unlocked, avoid logging into any of your personal accounts. Hackers have been known to set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots, luring people in so they can see everything they are doing.
Social media is a big part of the modern-day online experience so it’s important to stay safe. Discover some top tips for staying online when it comes to social media.
Make your social media account private
Making your account private is a great first step as this means that only people who you know or give permission will be able to see your profile. Otherwise, anyone with an account on the social media platform will be able to see your posts, photos, and details.
Use two-factor authentication
On a typical account, a username and password are all that is required to log in. Because social media contains so much personal information about yourself, there are options to use an extra level of security when logging in. Two-factor authentication is an extra layer of security, requiring the user to provide a second log-in credential, such as a passcode sent to a mobile phone or a code from an authenticator app on your smartphone.
On social media, only connect with people you know or with verified accounts
It might be tempting to accept friend requests or follows from anyone that sends one to you but it’s safer to only connect with people that you know or with verified accounts of celebrities or media companies like the BBC – this will often be signified with a checkmark next to their name. This is definitely best practice when it comes to messaging or chatting with other profiles - if you don’t know them or trust them, it’s best to ignore such requests.
Don’t share personal details on your social media profile
If there is an option not to include personal information like your telephone number on your public profile, this is a good way to stay safe. Likewise, don’t post details like your address on your profile or share information, especially bank details, over the platform’s messaging service.
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Viruses and how to avoid them
Beware of pop-ups and downloads
Sometimes when browsing a website, you can be lured into downloading a file or clicking on a pop-up that actually contains a virus. These can wreak havoc on your computer, allowing the author of the virus to steal your information and access your personal details. If a website is asking you to download something unnecessarily, it’s best to avoid it.
Use anti-virus software
To ensure that your device is safe and secure, you should install an anti-virus or internet security software. If you are buying a new computer or laptop, either online or in-person, anti-virus software will be offered to you as part of the deal. Avast, Kaspersky, McAfee, and Norton are just some of the options available.
Tips for how to stay safe online
- Don’t reveal too much personal information via email
- Check the address the email comes from before interacting with it
- Don’t open attachments from email addresses you don’t recognise
- If an email offer looks too good to be true, it probably is
- Do not pass on your bank details via email
- Log out of your account when you are finished
- Utilise different passwords for your online accounts
- Only buy from online shops that you trust or can verify
- Look out for the padlock symbol in the address bar
- Use secure public Wi-Fi
- Make your social media account private
- Use two-factor authentication
- On social media, only connect with people you know or with verified accounts
- Don’t share personal details on your social media profile
- Beware of pop-ups and downloads
- Use anti-virus software
By following these tips, you can learn how to keep yourself safe online. Most important of all, it’s best to remember some basic essentials of internet safety, such as not sharing personal details with those you don’t know or are unsure of their legitimacy; this applies to so many areas, from email and online banking to social media.
Hopefully, the above advice for staying safe online has been helpful. Enjoy your time online but be sensible and cautious to keep yourself secure.
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This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.