Protecting Your Personal Information Online
With most of our personal and private information stored somewhere online these days, it can be hard to know whether our details are secure and out of the reach of cyber criminals and snoopers. However, with these handy tips, you can rest assured that you’ll be doing all you can to protect yourself against online fraud and identity theft.
Change your passwords
Passwords are the online keys to your most sensitive and personal information. Whether it’s your email account, your bank account, or your Facebook account, it’s wise to use a completely different password for each website and to use a mixture of numbers, special characters (e.g. # or &), and lowercase and capital letters.
Better still, think of ‘passphrase’ rather than ‘password’. Take a meaningless sentence that you’ll remember (e.g. part of a nursery rhyme) and use the first or second letter of every word to generate a strong password every time you need a new one.
Using varied and strong passwords dramatically reduces the chances of someone gaining access to your accounts and, for the ultimate online security strategy, changing your passwords every six months is a great way to stay safe online.
Careful where you click
Sinister links and URLs are one of the main ways that cyber criminals transfer malware and viruses onto your computer, so be careful what you’re clicking on. If you get a suspicious email from someone you don’t know with a dodgy-looking URL, or you see an advert claiming that you’ve won a million quid, don’t go clicking on the link to see what it is. Just to be on the safe side, there are special websites, such as scanurl.net, which allow you to enter and scan your link for malware.
Privacy settings are key
When you use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, your personal information is often on the show to the whole world. Your holiday snaps, family members, place of work, phone number and even your home address are often easily accessible with just a few clicks. To keep your sensitive data on lockdown, exclude all-important personal info from your profile or 'About Me' page, and make sure your privacy settings allow only your confirmed friends access to this information, if at all.
Phishing is real
Phishing may sound like a peaceful weekend pastime, but the online scams known as ‘phishing’ are anything but.
Phishing scams usually appear in the form of fraudulent emails or phone calls claiming to be from people and organisations you know and trusts, such as banks, government services, retailers, and search engines.
The email will often ask you to log in to your account and verify or update your payment information, using a link to a bogus website that will collect your private or financial information.
Banks will never directly ask you to input sensitive information, so if you’re unsure then call your bank directly and delete the email without opening it. It’s also worth noting that anyone sending you an email can change how their email address is displayed, so be sure to hover over the sender’s name to see their real email address.
Check for the 's' in https://
Before making any online payments, check the site you're using has an 's' after 'http' in the website URL. This stands for 'secure'. If the 's' isn't there then don't use the site.
Other safeguards to consider include logging out of secure websites when you’ve finished your transaction; closing the window won’t always log you out of the site. You should also avoid using unsecured WiFi networks, whether you’re at home, at the office, or out and about.
And if you think you might have a bug on your computer that's compromising your security, you could always hire me to remotely scan and remove any malware or get my Malware detector.
There are so many ways that your online security can be compromised these days, and as technology advances, it can seem harder and harder to protect your personal information.
However, by following my simple advice you’ll be taking some effective first steps to keep your online personal data safe and secure.
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