Safety tips for using the internet

We all love to browse the internet and make the most of the online world. After all, digital technologies now rule most of our lives, from social media to online banking, shopping, services booking, entertainment streaming, takeaway ordering... you name it, it's online!

But with this vast online eco-system largely ungoverned, how exactly can we make sure we are safe when we use the internet? Cybercriminals are motivated and highly skilled and they will stop at nothing to get hold of your precious personal and financial data. So it's essential that you take steps to safeguard yourself online. Follow these tips and enjoy the best of the internet - without becoming the victim of a cybercrime.

Limit your personal information

Remember that almost everything you post online is permanent and open for anyone to see if they are motivated enough - regardless of your privacy settings. So be mindful about what you post and where, especially if you are likely to be job-hunting at any point! Keep private data such as your DOB, address and relationship status off social media. Add information about your career history, skills, expertise and professional contact details. Always be mindful about the personal data you are sharing and err on the side of caution.

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Watch those downloads!

Cybercriminals want you to download malware that will steal your information and they often look like apps that can be as innocuous as weather reporting or games! Always check the validity and authenticity of apps in your app store. Plenty of positive reviews are a must.

Browse safely

You'd be mindful about where you went in person, so do the same online. Clickbait can be a device used by cybercriminals. If an article looks dubious, pass it by. One thoughtless click could download malware onto your device, or mean that your data is stolen. Just visit sites that are reputable and stay away from anything that just doesn't look right!

Only shop at secure sites

Always check that you are shopping online at authentic and verified stores - look for the HTTPS: address, and a padlock icon next to the address bar. Authentic sites are also populated with corporate information, address and contact details, privacy information, trust marks and other indicators of quality. Again, also look for positive customer reviews on Trusted Reviews and similar websites.

Watch those privacy settings

Take charge of your data by adjusting your privacy settings away from the default and to the level that suits you. You can do this on mobile operating systems, web browsers and big websites such as Facebook. These can be difficult to find because marketers want your data and extract value from it. But if you enable your privacy safeguards, you instantly boost the safety of your time online.

Stranger danger

There are a lot of fake social media profiles that are basically hacker fronts. Be extremely cautious about people you meet online. They may be fakes in a variety of ways.

Up your password game

Consider using password manager software to create and manage highly secure passwords that are genuinely randomised and use a mix of characters, symbols and numbers. 'Password1' just won't cut it anymore! Regularly change your passwords too and try to have different passwords for each website. If you no longer use a site, delete your account. Also, be wary about saving credit card details 'for ease', in case the website is hacked.

Always keep your antivirus software updated

There's a great range of internet security software and it does detect most malware and remove it - although it can't guarantee 100% safety. but you must make sure that it's up to date to be effective, so always enable your system updates for that vital security layer. Where additional security layers are offered too on websites, such as two-factor authentication, be sure to enable it.

Consider a VPN

Some people use VPN networks - Virtual Private Networks - to establish a secure connection that no one can access or monitor. These are well worth investigating and they can be used across all devices to greatly enhance your privacy online. There are other measures to take as well, such as avoiding public wifi connections that have no security controls. Don't ever use public wifi to carry out activities such as banking. Use your mobile data network, or wait until you are on a trusted and secure wireless network.

Think before you post

Once it's out there, you can't delete it! Any image, comment or post will stay online because you have no control over copies people may have made - even if you delete the original. Use the parent test. if you wouldn't want your parents - or an employer - to see it, don't put it online. And if you haven't been quite so careful in the past, limit the potential damage now by going back through your social media accounts and removing any information that might not want someone to scroll back through and see. Equally, you can Google your details and see what anyone searching for you would see - and take action as necessary and where possible.

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