Online Security

Follow our tips and tricks to combat risks like viruses and spyware, phishing scams, fraud, and exposure to unexpected or inappropriate content.


Key points

 

Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software

Detect and eliminate online threats including viruses, Trojans, spyware, adware and malicious sites by using anti-virus and anti-spyware software.

Computers usually come with this software pre-installed but it’s usually a basic program. It doesn’t hurt to take extra precautions by investing in additional protection, especially if you have children who are also using the internet.

For full protection against the most sophisticated threats, you'll need to keep your software up to date.


Install software updates

By keeping your web browser and software up to date, you reduce the risk of attackers using security loopholes to get inside your system and steal personal data.

 

Check your settings

If some of your programs on your device don’t need a connection to the internet to work, then you can disable its internet access in your settings. The less you have connected to the internet, the less points of entry a hacker will have to infiltrate to your device.

 

Take care with cookies

Cookies are files on your device that websites use to store information about you.

Most of the time they're harmless. They carry out tasks such as keeping track of your username so that you don't have to log into a website every time you visit, and storing your usage preferences. UK websites must gain your permission to enable cookies, which you can either accept, modify or deny.

However, some cookies are used to track your browsing habits so that they can target advertising at you, or by criminals to build a profile of your interests and activities with the intention to defraud you.

For more information about how we use cookies when you’re navigating our website, take a look at our cookie policy.

 

Use strong (and different) passwords

A weak password leaves you at risk of having your account hacked and your data stolen, but strong passwords that use upper and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers add an extra layer of protection against hackers.

For example, a password that’s just a simple word (‘password’) or that includes information about your lifestyle (‘dogsrule’) would be more easily guessed than a jumble of letters and numbers (‘D065Ru73’).

It's a good idea to use a different pin or password for each account you access, and remember to change your passwords regularly.

If your home Wi-Fi is left unsecured without a strong password, it leaves your network vulnerable, and could also slow down your connection speed.

 

Be cautious when clicking links or downloading attachments

Malware is commonly spread between devices through dangerous email attachments, so don’t open anything that looks suspicious.

Check that the email actually came from a person or company you know. Cyber-criminals will often try and trick you by pretending to be from a contact or a service you use. Make sure the email address and sender name are correct. If there’s a spelling mistake, the email address looks strange, or if the design looks odd don’t risk opening any attachments.

Hovering your cursor over a link will tell you the website address it will take you to. This way you can make sure it's a legitimate website or the one you were expecting without clicking on a potentially dodgy link.

 

Beware of phishing

Phishing involves fraudsters stealing your data by sending emails requesting personal or financial information, usually redirecting you to a fake website attempting to pass itself off as a legitimate organisation, like your bank.

Your bank would never ask for your personal details via email. If you suspect you’re being targeted by a scammer, phone your bank directly or visit your local branch.

 

Beware of spam

Spam is unwanted junk mail, that’s usually just annoying advertising. But some spam mail can be intended to infect your computer or gain access to your money. Spam or junk filters will stop most messages getting to you, but a few may get through the net. If you do spot any, put them in your junk folder.

 

Check privacy policies

When providing personal or financial data online, check the website's privacy policy to understand how your data will be used and stored - for example, here's ours.

 

Encryption

Many sites use Extended Validation Secure Socket Layer (EV SSL) to encrypt data. This means that the page is secure and the information you provide cannot be intercepted by a third party.

As a guideline, information that can be used to identify you (for example: your name, date of birth and address), along with any financial information, should be encrypted using a secure connection.

The simplest way to tell if you have a secure connection is to look at your browser’s address bar. Depending on the browser you're using, if the page is secure the URL will change from 'http:' to 'https:', the address bar may turn green and/or you may also see a locked padlock symbol to reassure you it is safe.

 

Secure your router

An unsecured router would allow anyone within the signal’s range to access your network with any wireless-enabled device. This leaves your network vulnerable to hackers and fraudsters, which could result in the theft of your banking details or other personal data.

Set up a strong router password to stop unauthorised access to your network. The longer and more complex it is the less chance someone unwanted can access your Wi-Fi.

A Wi-Fi password can be encrypted in two different ways: Wired Equipment Privacy (WEP) and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA).

WEP is older than WPA. It’s safer than having no encryption at all, but it’s better to have the most recent security available if possible, so it’s worth negotiating with your provider for a newer router.

WPA2 has replaced WPA in new Wi-Fi enabled devices, but this type of security is not compatible with all types of broadband hardware. Check which type of encryption you should use before setting up your network security - you can give your provider a call to find this out.