How to stay safe online

As our individual online presence continues to increase, it is important to protect ourselves against cyber criminals and the threats of fraud, scams and cyber attacks. Ron Austin, Associate Professor of Networks and Security, shares his tips for staying safe online.

10 tips for keeping safe online

The internet is a great, modern tool but it is important to understand some of the basic rules and best practices to ensure your internet safety.

1. Keep your systems up to date.

The most popular operating systems (Apple, Microsoft and Linux) provide automatic security updates.

2. Do not click on unknown links in emails from people or companies that you don’t know or have not subscribed to.

Don’t believe the offers you may receive online. If it looks too good to be true, it’s normally a scam and could compromise your e safety. These types of scams are looking to gain access to your P.C and network via a virus.

3. If you have your laptop or P.C in a bedroom, cover up the webcam.

There are a number of remote access Trojans (RATS) that allow an attacker to view you from your webcam.

4. Passwords need to be different for every site you use.

I would recommend a password manager like 1password or lastpass, these sites generate and store a password that is both long and random. This reduces the risk of using the same password across different sites.

5. When shopping online make sure the site is https and shows the padlock icon in the browser bar.

6. Use a credit card for online purchases as this offers more protection from fraud.

7. Change the default password on your home routers and wireless hub.

The passwords on a home router are set up for you, but the default passwords are easily broken. Change your passwords to something more secure to increase your internet safety. Log in to the router (the password is normally on the back of the router) and then follow the guidance from your ISP (Internet Service Provider) for changing the password.

8. Change the firewall setting on your wireless router.

The firewall on a router is normally set to low. Therefore your router is not looking very deeply at your traffic and not giving you full protection. You can reset this to either medium or high. If you are a gamer and play online games you will need to review this as it will stop games from playing.

9. If out and using an open hotspot, make sure you use a VPN (virtual private network).

The question to ask yourself is: how much would I lose if my data was compromised? The VPN adds another layer of security to your data traffic as it crosses the network. This makes it harder for anyone else to look at and read your traffic.

10. Finally, back up your data, either to a hard drive or cloud provider.

Google or Carbonite are possible providers. All it takes is a simple mistake or malicious ransomware virus and you could lose all the files on your computer forever. By backing up you can restore your system if this happens to you.

These tips should help you stay safe online and remember – make sure you backup your data!

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