Top tips to stay safe online.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic we have become more and more dependent on the digital world. Online is the new frontline, from shopping online to working online, banking online, social networking, we live online. It is therefore vital we protect ourselves online and in our digital life.
Online safety is a continuous journey, and for many of us it can be daunting. Online scams are becoming increasingly common and sophisticated. So VSS has put together a list of top tips to help victims and survivors stay safe online. Please note is this not an exhaustive list of best practices but a guide that will help you remain safe and secure against the most common online attacks.
What are online scams?
Online scams come in many different formats such as:
- Phishing emails
- Online Shopping
- Health Scams
- Relationship Scams
- Impersonation scams
Keeping yourself up to date and informed of the latest online scams will give you the knowledge to easily identify them and help keep you safe online. For information visit www.getsafeonline.org
How can I stay safe online?
Top tips to stay safe online
Following the safety tips outlined below will help you remain safe online against the most common online attacks.
- Create complex passwords and never reuse a password across different websites.
Your password is your first line of defence to protect your online identity. Creating strong, unique passwords for all your accounts really is the best way to keep your personal and financial information safe.
If your password has been compromised as a result of a corporate hack and you reuse the same password elsewhere, a hacker can use it to login to your other accounts.
We understand remembering different passwords for different accounts is a challenge so the best advice is to use a password manager to help you store and create strong passwords for all of your accounts.
Be sure to use multi-factor authentication where it is an option. This means multiple pieces of information are required to verify your identity.
To check if your email ID has been part of a data security breach that included your email address visit https://haveibeenpwned.com .
To check if a password that you use has also been found in a data breach visit https://haveibeenpwned.com/ Password
- Boost your network security by installing security software on your devices including mobile phones (e.g. anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall and VPN)
Anti-virus software – will detect and remove viruses before they can infect your computer.
Anti-spyware software – prevents pop up adverts that may track your activities or scan your device for personal information.
Firewall – This an electronic barrier that blocks unauthorized access to your computers and devices, and is often included with comprehensive security software.
VPN – a Virtual Private Network is a piece of software that creates a secure connection over the internet, so you can safely connect from anywhere this is particularly useful if using free, public Wi-Fi which is often unsecured
Your internet service provider may offer security software as part of your internet deal. There are also popular free security software programs available to download online, such as AVG, Avast and Microsoft Security Essentials.
It is best to buy a ‘package’ from a reputable provider which will include a range of security software (such as McAfee or Norton). You can download these programs from the internet or visit a retail computer store for guidance.
- Think before you click
Today many online threats are based on phishing or social engineering. You may be tricked into revealing personal or sensitive information which could then be used for fraudulent purposes. Spam emails, phony “free” offers, clickbait, online quizzes and more all use these tactics to lure you to click on dangerous links or give up your personal information. Always be wary of offers that sound too good to be true, or ask you for too much information. Never download anything from a website or content provider whom you don’t trust.
- For computer programs, always download executable files from the software developer’s official page or a credible app store.
- For media, go for streaming services rather than shady online databases of downloadable files.
- Always keep your anti-malware software up to date and running.
- Never send money to someone who has requested it via social media platforms or websites even if it appears to be someone you know, as their account could be comprised. You should always check these requests are genuine before sending any money – make a phone call to the person to check.
- Be careful what you share and post
There are a lot of opportunities to share our personal information online. Be cautious about what you share, particularly your identity information. This can potentially be used to impersonate you, or guess your passwords and logins. With image recognition technology developing by the day it’s possible for anyone to:
- Upload a person’s image.
- Find out all images in the public web related to the person.
- Use the information to either carry out advanced social engineering attacks, or to hoard information for the purpose of blackmailing or misrepresenting anything in the future.
- Protect Your Mobile Device/Smartphone
Our mobile devices and smart phones can be just as susceptible to online threats as our laptops and computers. In fact, mobile devices face new risks, such as risky apps and dangerous links sent by text message. Be careful where you click, don’t respond to messages from strangers, and only download apps from official app stores after reading other users’ reviews first. Make sure that your security software is enabled on your mobile device, just like your computers and other devices.
- Practice Safe Surfing & Shopping
When shopping online, or visiting websites for online banking or other sensitive transactions, always make sure that the site’s address starts with “https”, instead of just “http”, and has a padlock icon in the URL field. This indicates that the website is secure and uses encryption to scramble your data so it can’t be intercepted by others. (But don’t be fooled if the padlock appears on the page itself)
Be aware that a padlock symbol is not an absolute guarantee of safety. If you ever have doubts, it’s best to leave the page.
Keep a lookout for websites that have spelling mistakes or bad grammar in their addresses. They could be copycats of legitimate websites. Use a safe search engine tool such to steer clear of risky sites.
- Stay up-to-date
Keep all your software updated so you have the latest security patches. Turn on automatic updates so you don’t have to think about it, and make sure that your security software is set to run regular scans.
- Invest time and effort in enhancing your online safety awareness
Online threats are on the rise and evolving all the time. Make sure you know what to look out for. Currently, “ransomware” is on the rise. This is when a hacker threatens to lock you out of all of your files unless you agree to pay a ransom. Stay on top of this and other threats by staying informed for the latest scams.
- Keep your guard up
Always be cautious about what you do online, which sites you visit, and what you share. Use comprehensive security software, and make sure to backup your data on a regular basis in case something goes wrong. By taking preventative measures, you can save yourself from headaches later on.
How do I report an online scam?
If you’ve been scammed or suspect that someone is attempting to scam you or someone you know, you should always report it. Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed.
For full details on how to report a scam within Northern Ireland please see link below.
If you wish to report scam from outside Northern Ireland please contact your local policing authority.