How to protect yourself online

By Nicola Jewell

Posted in: 

We live in a virtual world now – almost all of us are online on some sort of device for part of every single day.  We bank online, receive official communications by email, socialise online.  We use sensitive, personal information every day. 

We are happy to buy burglar alarms for our houses and in cars, and invest in extra locks, secure fencing and windows or immobilisers.  But how many people pay the same attention to their online security?   Just a little carelessness can allow unscrupulous people to take advantage.

Look to your connection.

If you’re in McDonalds with a coffee and free wifi, and think you might just check your bank account quickly…don’t.  Free wifi networks are public and not secure, and this can leave you vulnerable.  Make sure you check accounts and other important things on a secure, private connection.

Change your password.

Did you know that the most used password is “password?”  Or that most people choose a name, 123456, or something like “Letmein?”  Passwords need to be memorable, but if your pet’s name is all over your social media, and you are using that name as a password, it will not be hard to guess.  And if you use that password for every account, and someone gets hold of it, you could really be in trouble. 

Try to introduce a bit of randomness to your password, or work out a mnemonic system.  To be really secure, you can download programs such as Kee Pass that will generate secure passwords for you and store them in an encrypted vault.  Of course, you will still need a password to get into the vault.

You could also set up all your accounts to require two-step authentication (eg, receive a text with an authorisation code if you log in from a different computer.)

Be mean with your information.

Social media is all about sharing, so it can be hard to watch what you say.  But not everyone you connect with will be your friend.  Check your privacy settings, to make sure you are only sharing information with people you truly want to share with.  Never, ever put any information that people could use to steal your identity online – for example, don’t share your exact address, postcode, mother’s maiden name, or national insurance number.  Ideally, don’t even share your birthday.  You could always grant yourself a second birthday, like the Queen!

Online shopping.

Use trusted sites for your shopping online.  Never put sensitive credit or debit card information into a site that starts with http – only https.  That S stands for “secure.” 

Don’t skimp on virus protection.

Windows Defender and Windows Firewall are not good enough.  Invest in a really good, paid-for, anti-virus protection program – and keep it up-to-date.  Do your research to make you are really getting a good program that protects your computer. 

Need help setting up firewalls and virus protection?  Worried that you have given away sensitive information online?  Speak to a certified JustAnswer Computer expert today.