October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, a global initiative to raise awareness of cybercrime and to offer advice on how to protect yourself online. Cybercrime (or most commonly known as online fraud or scams), can take place via emails, text messages, fake websites, and computer viruses.
These crimes are unfortunately becoming increasingly prevalent and sophisticated, with even regular internet users and ‘tech savvy’ people losing money or unknowingly sharing their personal information. In fact, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), people are more likely to be a victim of fraud or cybercrime than any other crime.
Laura Fisher, sales manager at Retirement Homesearch, offers her top tips to help you stay safe online.
- Passwords – Setting up strong passwords is one of the simplest but also most effective thing to do to stay safe. Avoid passwords made up of your personal information (such as pet names, family names, date of birth) and use random numbers and characters instead to replace any letters. It’s best to avoid writing down your password but if you need a reminder, jot down a hint that only you will understand rather than the actual password. Make sure anything written is stored safely and away from your computer.
- Anti-virus software – Make sure you install (or keep updated) software which looks for and removes viruses before they can infect your device. Anti-spyware software prevents unwanted adverts from popping up and stops programs tracking your activities or scanning your device for personal data, such as credit card numbers or bank details.
- Two factor authentication – Enable two factor authentication on top of your password to help make your accounts secure. It often involves entering a four-to-six-digit pin after typing in your password.
- Wireless network – Make sure your home wireless network (Wi-Fi) is protected so other people living nearby cannot access it. Read the instructions that come with your wireless router to find out how to set up a 'key' (a type of password) so that no one else can access the internet through your router.
- Social media – If you have a social networking account such as Facebook, use the privacy features to choose who can view your profile and posts and avoid publishing information that identifies you, such as your telephone number, address, or date of birth.
- Online banking – Always make sure you log out of your online session, especially if you use a device that others have access to and be especially cautious when using a public computer, such as in a library, to access your online banking as there may not be the right level of security software.
- Emails and text messages – Don’t click on links in emails or texts from unfamiliar senders. Also, if you receive strange or unexpected messages from people you don’t know. Spam or malicious emails and texts are common methods online criminals use to access your personal data. If you are ever unsure, press delete or check in with a trusted friend or family member.
Laura adds: ”No matter what our age - or how much we think we already know about being careful online - we can all benefit from just checking in now and then and making sure we really are following the steps above. Why not share the tips with friends, family and neighbours this – it could make all the difference.”