You can tell people what you are up to by posting messages, call people, and order everything from food to furniture without leaving your sofa.
There are many factors that make the Internet a great tool, and it can make life easier whether it comes to work or play. However, this can also mean that it can easily be taken for granted.
It works well, therefore, it must be safe, right? Not necessarily so.
The Internet is a crowded arena, so in the same way that you would need to be wary of pickpockets when in a crowded place, it is necessary to protect your personal information online. Recognizing the fact that criminals have no qualms about taking their illicit trade from the street to the Internet will help reduce the risk of your personal information getting into the wrong hands.
There is a range of simple steps that you can take to make yourself safer when you go online:
- When using a computer other than your own personal one, always ensure that the ‘remember me’ option is not ticked so that your username and password are not retained on that computer. Always remember to log out.
- Keep up to date with the latest security software that can be used on your computer and make sure that you are using the best firewalls and anti-virus software.
- Some websites will record when you last logged in and display this the next time you log in, so check this to ensure it matches your actions and immediately reports it to the company if you find something is amiss.
- Many websites from which you can make purchases will give you the option of saving your payment details. Avoid this by unticking the relevant box, which will give you peace of mind in the event that the company gets hacked.
- Do not use the same password for all of your online accounts – once a hacker steals one of your passwords, all of your accounts are then vulnerable.
- Staying with passwords: don’t make them easy. If you use ‘password’, ‘12345678’, your own name, your pet’s name, or any other such obvious option – change it now! The strongest password is a random set of letters (a mixture of upper and lower case), numbers, and characters.
- When using online banking, make use of the security measures have in place, such as a secure key. Though they might be annoying and cause you to spend a few minutes more getting into your account, imagine the annoyance and time that would be needed to try and retrieve money stolen from your account.
- If you receive an email that purports to be from your bank requesting that you reply with your password on the basis of some problem with your account, do not reply. Report it to the security department of your bank and then delete it. No reputable bank will email you to ask for your password, so it is sure to be a phishing email.
- Avoid unfamiliar websites and clicking on links that do not relate to a company that you are used to using.
While the use of the Internet allows you to avoid wasted time down trawling around the shops, this does not mean that you should ignore sensible security measures that you would employ when out in the real world. Be wary and do not assume that every part of the Internet is like the other.
There are many situations in which the hackers appear to be working faster than those charged with the security of websites, which leads to a story where the bad guy wins. Accordingly, it is not prudent to solely rely on the security of the websites that you use.
By taking some precautions, you can help to ensure that your details remain safe and that you do not have to worry about checking whether you might be on the list of victims who have had their details stolen.