This week is Get Safe Online Week - an event designed to increase awareness of the dangers we're increasingly facing online. Many people assume that they won't fall victim to an online attack, but anyone could be a victim to cybercrime. So, this week is one where we can all take stock of our online behaviour and make sure we are not becoming complacent.
Anyone who has fallen victim to an online attack will testify to the fact that any intrusion into their private lives by a complete stranger is of course unsettling. It can often result in a loss of confidence online, or worse - a financial loss. The most common online scams include financial and fee fraud, shopping and dating scams, in addition to malware infection. £670 million was lost to reported online fraud cases in the past year, according to National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. This only includes those that were reported, suggesting that the real situation is much worse.
In order to reduce this figure, we all need to make sure we understand the threat and have the knowledge to be proactive against cybercrime, rather than just reacting when it's too late.
The problem is, it's all too easy to do something that inadvertently puts us at risk. For instance, clicking on attachments, or links, in unsolicited messages that turn out to be part of a phishing scam. Or failing to apply a security update to an application we use. But there are less obvious threats too. It's easy to overlook the fact that our webcam could become a window into our world for cybercriminals. 30 per cent of adults leave sensitive documents or payment cards near camera-enabled devices, without realising that these devices could easily be hacked.
The recent celebrity iCloud hack has highlighted another way in which we can all be susceptible to attack. While the security of a cloud service partly depends on the provider, it's important to remember that as soon as you hand over any data (including photos) to a third-party service, you automatically lose some control over it. This is also the case for when you upload something online. So, in order to make your private data more secure, you should cherry-pick the data you store in the cloud and know (and control) when the data is set to automatically leave your device. You should also make sure that you're using a sensible password for any online account.
Below are my top tips on how to stay safe online:
1. Internet banking - Banks recognise how important it is to keep their customers' details safe and secure. Check the security pages on your bank's website to find out what robust systems they have put in place to protect you.
2. Keep up-to-date - Make sure you download the latest software on all your gadgets. Those reminders that pop up on your computer, tablet or mobile phone are there for a reason. The latest software will help to tie up the loopholes in software that can be used to install malware on your device.
3. Defend yourself - Good security software on any of your gadgets will help protect you against malicious programs or attacks..
4. Be aware of Bluetooth - If you are not using your Bluetooth connection switch it off. Leaving it turned on opens up your mobile device to people who might want to illegally access your information.
5. Stranger danger - If you receive an e-mail, text message or alert that you're worried about or looks suspicious please don't open, forward or reply to it. Instead, just delete it. Remember, banks, pay services and shops will never ask you for your security information via text or email.
6. Stay app happy - If you use an app be sure it is from a trusted source. Scammers are adept at creating official-looking apps to collect (and then misuse) data, so double-check before you download.
7. Hit the wall - Set up a firewall. Once set up, it can help prevent potential intruders from accessing your computer.
8. Super social networking - Identity thieves take pieces of information published online to build a profile of their victim. Allowing people to see your date of birth, mobile phone number, address, family details or other snippets of information about you might give them enough to steal your identity.
9. Perk up your passwords - Passwords should be long (15 characters or more) and contain a mix of letters, numbers and special characters. Avoid using your name, username or something too obvious. Use different passwords for different sites and change your passwords regularly.
10. Wise up to wireless and Wi-Fi - Without a secure wireless network, anyone can use your connection and steal your information. Secure your own Wi-Fi router avoid about using public Wi-Fi for confidential transactions.