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Take Action and 'Get Safe Online'

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'Get Safe Online Week', is a joint initiative by the government and the Serious Organised Crime Agency, which aims to give consumers practical advice on how they can protect themselves, their homes and their businesses from an array of security issues when online.

There are so many different ways in which we criminals can now target individuals and businesses online. So the Get Safe initiative is a great idea as it doesn't just highlight the more well-known dangers such as identity theft and computer viruses, but also how we could easily become a victim of fraudulent activity or be bugged when making Skype calls.

Recent research carried out by Legal & General's general insurance business showed just how many of us could be be putting our lives and homes at risk by disclosing too much personal information on social network sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn. Over nine out of ten Brits, (91%) using social media at least once a week stated that they had been asked to connect online with someone they have never met, and over half (51%) have accepted these requests, according to Legal & General's Digital Criminal 2012: CyberSafety report.

Nearly two thirds (63%) of those who have connected with people they don't know have done so because they had a mutual friend in common. A third (34%) accepted strangers because they were members of the same group, and over one in ten (11%) assumed they must know them somehow, and it would be rude not to accept.

Burglars are exploiting this trusting attitude and are creating networks of fake profiles to engineer a set of mutual friends, to target individuals and their homes. Social media enables criminals to uncover a wealth of personal information us, where we live, where we are and our network of friends. All this information makes it easier for burglars to pick their targets.

So the 'Get Safe Online Week' is a great reminder to us all to ensure we carry out often very simple steps to reduce the risk of being a target and to stay safe online. Social media sites are a great way of keeping in touch, but everyone needs to remain cautious about who we connect with and what information we 'give' away.

The following virtual housekeeping tips may just help prevent it happening to more people. By following these tips, we can continue to enjoy the benefits of social media, without putting ourselves and our homes at risk.

1. Be secure
  • Use firewalls, anti-spyware and anti-virus software
  • Use strong passwords, which are eight characters or more, and contain a mixture of letters, numbers and symbols
  • Use different passwords for each account
  • Don't use your email address as a log on name
2. Clean up your online footprint
  • Google yourself to find out what information is posted about you online
  • Delete old profiles, such as Friends Reunited, Bebo and old dating profiles
  • Check out what is stored on you for marketing purposes on websites such as 192.com, 123.com and others
3. Check your privacy
  • Check out each social networking site's privacy policy
  • Set your account's privacy controls to 'private' and be wary of the 'friends of friends' permission settings - think about how far this widens your network
  • Check which applications have access to your private data
4. Be wary of strangers
  • Don't accept friend or connect requests from people who you've never met
5. Limit what you publish
  • Don't reveal your date of birth or gender
  • Don't reveal where you live or post telephone numbers
  • Don't talk about your holiday plans, weekend plans, or new purchases

More detail on security and safety tips are available in the latest Legal& General's Digital Criminal 2012: CyberSafety Report which may be viewed online at, www.legalandgeneral.com/digitalcriminal2012