The price of using websites and other online services is often giving away personal information about ourselves, but there are some quick and easy steps that we can all take to make that data as safe as possible.
The online world is often a strange one – we quite happily give information away to strangers that we would never dream of doing face to face, in the false belief it is what everyone is doing so must be safe.
And, while to a large degree it is, we do still need to take care, particularly not to give away unnecessary information that could be used for identify theft or just plain fraud.
So what should we be doing – and what must be avoided?
- Be clear who can see what – that means enabling, and checking, privacy settings for every social media site you use, and ensuring you only make payments through secured web pages when shopping or banking online.
- Have strong passwords – and don’t reuse them or write them down. We know this one is tricky. Great passwords, in terms of strength, are by their nature hard to recall, while easy-to-remember ones are not. But be savvy, because account security is everything – and enable two-stage authentication where you can, so you can get back into your account with minimal effort and fuss if you are hacked.
- Take care not to post information that is often used as security questions for internet banking services, such as your data of birth, mother’s maiden name or first pet. The more would-be fraudsters know about you, the easier it is to find, or convince someone to give them, the rest.
- Don’t fall for dodgy or so-called phishing emails – your bank, or other outlets that have card details, won’t ask for sensitive details over email, so beware any emails that do, no matter how official looking. If in doubt, call the institution on a number that you know is real.
- Be careful where you log-on – take care to disconnect from a session if using public computers in libraries, for example, and beware public wifi as its often not as secure as a home connection.
- On which note – make sure your home wifi is password-protected, so others can’t access it – both to try and get your details or piggyback on your data allowance.
- Keep spyware and virus scanners up to date on any device that you use to access the internet – viruses and keystroke loggers are both a big risk to your data
- Be wary about who you befriend online, and who you give personal information such as your address out to
- Beware what pictures and status updates tell a potential criminal about you – holiday pictures show you’re away from home, for example.
- Be sensible and always have your wits about you – only give out the information that is needed by any one site, don’t take risks with your personal information, or your safety, and if something feels wrong take heed and get yourself out of the situation.
The internet is a wonderful thing for so many reasons, but treat it with the respect it deserves and you’ll be able to just enjoy it and not fear it.