Internet Safety for the Whole Family
As technology progresses in the modern world, more of our day to day life revolves around using the internet. We now use the internet for more than just socialising and finding out information. It’s now essential for working from home, paying our bills and dealing with our banking, among many other things.
Read on to learn more about how to protect you and your family from potential hackers and to keep your personal devices safe, particularly in the home and what to do if you think your computer or other device may have been hacked.
How do I know if a website is secure?
Always look for the padlock symbol in the top left in the address bar. This is an indicator that the website is secure. If the website address in the address bar starts with https:// then this means the website is secure. Https stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, without the “s” the site is not secure.
Be aware that any website can be made secure. So bear in mind there are other ways in which they can be compromised. If you come across anything suspicious or links that don’t go to where you expect them to, it is a strong indication that the website has been hacked and you should stop using it.
Website imitations that look almost identical to the real things are getting more sophisticated. They may even use the same official company logos, but a few tiny details can give them away. Companies that post their address, email and telephone number make it easier to fact check that they do exist and give you a point of contact if you need help.
We can often be bombarded with an excessive amount of emails. Fraudulent or spam emails can sometimes be difficult to tell apart from genuine emails. Always double check the email address to see where the email came from. If the title of the email looks like it’s from a reputable company, but the email address is full of random numbers and letters then it’s likely to be a scam. Spelling mistakes are also a giveaway that the email is a scam. Banks will never ask you to confirm your account details over the internet, so any email asking for such information is not to be trusted. If you want to contact your bank about any emails you’ve received then call them directly with the phone number registered on their website or your bank statements, not the one given on the email.
Importantly if you are ever unsure, never interact with the email by clicking links contained in it. Instead logon to the account via its official website and check for notifications or contact their support department for clarification. These links can go to the website imitations mentioned above where the login form will harvest your login details.
If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is!
Emails informing you that you’ve won something, whether it be a large sum of cash, explain that you’re entitled to a refund or tell you that you have an outstanding invoice, and then ask you to contact them or click on a link to request your bank details are unlikely to be genuine.
Some emails may include links that they ask you to open, but these often result in viruses being downloaded onto your computer. If you don’t recognise the sender/subject of an email, it’s best to proceed with caution.
Some scammers may contact you by phone, pretending to be from a well-known company saying you have a virus on your computer. They may say they need to be given total access to your passwords to take control of it and delete it for you or ask you to type things into your computer that opens it up to attacks. People who have given them control of their laptops often find that they have installed viruses and spyware themselves and often charge an astronomical fee to remove it for you. Your private information may be vulnerable to theft, and a ransom fee may be issued to release it back to you.
To fully protect yourself from ransom attacks, always ensure you have regular backups scheduled to the cloud so that you can recover anything important should this happen to you. External hard drive backups are good for back ups but if you leave these connected to the machine, they can be compromised as well.
If you think you’ve been a victim of online fraud, you should contact the police immediately.
Never give anyone access to your passwords. You can strengthen your passwords by making them at least 8 characters in length, using a combination of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols (for example !£%&*).
We know it’s difficult to remember all of your different passwords, but having multiple passwords means that if one account is compromised, your other accounts aren’t vulnerable. Password managers such as 1Password or OneLogin are a great way to store and manage your passwords in a secure fashion.
What is Malware?
Malware is malicious software including viruses, ransomware and spyware which can be very difficult to identify and remove when it’s on the system. To do so often requires a lot of technical knowledge, as they are designed to not be removed. Simply uninstalling the software will not work, even if it appears to have worked.
Going back to the theory that if it’s too good to be true it probably is. Downloading free versions of expensive software or downloading browser extensions designed to do something restricted by the host , for example downloading YouTube videos is another way to get infected with Malware.
How do I get rid of Malware?
You will need a malware removal tool. However, do beware of fake malware scanners and removal tools. The free version will often present you with fake problems that don’t exist to make you pay for the full version of the software to remove them; in essence doing nothing for you.
We highly recommend Malewarebytes if you are in genuine need of a reputable malware removal tool. We have used them ourselves when providing support to our customers and the results have been great.
Adding two-factor authentication to your accounts is a great way to add a second layer of security. As well as using a password, you also add a second check before being able to log into your account. This is a way of double checking that you are who you say you are. If your password is discovered, a scammer won’t be able to log in without the information for your second check. This could be a text message that sends you a code or an app that receives a code that you need to enter to complete your login.
Devices such as laptops and mobile phones will notify you when system updates are available. Don’t put off installing these updates as they will have security improvements that are vital in keeping your device safe.
Don’t get too personal
When sharing information about yourself online, don’t share too much about personal information with strangers. Information such as your full name, address, phone number and location could be used to locate you in real life. When sharing pictures of children, make sure that there are no recognisable buildings or landmarks that could be used to find them, or identifying features such as school uniforms with logos. You can change your security settings to private to avoid strangers stealing your photos or assuming your identity.
Posting that you are going on holiday and tagging your friends and family, reveal that you won’t be at home and could potentially put yourself at risk of being burgled.
Additionally, never answer quizzes online that ask things about you; such as your favourite colour, first pet, first school, favourite teacher etc. These quizzes are designed to farm information about you so that they can answer possible security questions and access your account via the account recovery process.
Mobile Phone Safety
Devices such as phones and tablets can also offer extra security in the forms of smart locks. This is where you can use your fingerprint, eye scan, a PIN or a pattern to add an extra layer of security when unlocking your device.
Staying safe at home
If possible, you should install a verified antivirus software such as Norton Antivirus onto your devices. They scan your files and programmes looking for any suspicious codes, viruses and malware. They regularly update themselves to keep up to date with the latest threats, providing a strong defence against any attacks that might occur whilst browsing the web.
Protect your wireless network by keeping your router secure with a password that is different from the one that comes as standard with your router. Your password acts as a wireless key, and without it anyone can connect to your private network.
This doesn’t just extend to your router, however. Any device connected to your network should always have its password changed to something other than the default password set on it. Things like smart fridges, baby monitors and security cameras can also compromise you if they are not secured at install.
A lot of antivirus software comes with the option to set up parental controls. These will limit what your children can do online and prevent them from accessing content you don’t want them to see or downloading software that can compromise the machine.
In summary, keep all your software up to date, your wireless router secure and make sure to double check the websites you visit are safe. Don’t click on links or open emails from unknown people and don’t give away your details or too much information about yourself. Try to strengthen your passwords by using two-factor authentication, use smart locks and antivirus software to keep your devices safe.