THE BLOG
21/09/2015 12:31 BST | Updated 21/09/2016 06:12 BST

Top Tips for Protecting Yourself Online

High profile hacks such as that of online dating website, Ashley Madison, and last year's attack on Sony have helped bring hacking scandals to the forefront of the news agenda, what these high profile, large scale business hacks fail to bring to light is the smaller scale cyber-attacks targeting consumers, like you and I daily, and the impact these can have on our lives.

As technology embeds itself into our everyday lives - whether we are using online banking, searching for information or surfing price comparison websites for the best deals - everyone, regardless of age, is feeling the impact. With everything from our house to our car expected to be connected in the next five to ten years, it comes of little surprise that the void between younger and older generations using the internet is decreasing.

Never is that truer that with the over 50 population in the UK. In fact Internet use by those aged 50+ has increased by 10 percent since 2011 and research from Ofcom found that tablet use amongst this generation jumped from 5 percent to 17 percent between 2012 and 2013 - making them one of the fastest growing age brackets when it comes to technology uptake.

But, like all generations that have had the internet - and connected devices - thrust into their everyday lives at an unprecedented pace, a little advice and some top tips on keeping yourself protected online probably wouldn't go amiss.

High profile hacks such as that of online dating website, Ashley Madison, and last year's attack on Sony have helped bring hacking scandals to the forefront of the news agenda, what these high profile, large scale business hacks fail to bring to light is the smaller scale cyber-attacks targeting consumers, like you and I daily, and the impact these can have on our lives.

While the internet and the connected world bring huge opportunities, these do not come without risk. The State of Privacy report from Symantec revealed that 57 percent of Europeans are worried that their data is not safe. To help you become more aware of the threats online - and the impact these could have on your life - there are three top tips below included for protecting your personal information online:

Always choose strong passwords and keep them safe

Passwords are commonplace in the internet era. We are required to use them for everything, from ordering flowers to online banking and social networking to shopping around for deals. Despite this, many of us admit to simply using the word 'password' or an easily guessable word for all their accounts such as children, pet names, favourite sports team and dates of birth. A hacker can find such details easily on social media, so if this sounds familiar it's time to shake it up; using the same password means that if one of your accounts is compromised hackers have a direct route into all of your online accounts, through your password.

  • How do you protect yourself? Select a password that cannot be easily guessed and change your passwords on a regular basis, at least every 90 days. Use a password manager to help remember multiple strong passwords across all your online accounts.

  • One idea to create strong passwords is to remember a phrase from a favourite play - for example, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away". Use the first letters and you have a password AAADKTDA. If you also want numbers in it then change a letter to a number that reminds you of the letter. For example, AAADKTD4

  • Adding an extra layer of security with what's referred to as 'two-factor' authentication will significantly increase protection. This could be adding a personal question, taking advantage of finger print scanning, voice recognition or having a secret username.

Protect your privacy and personal information

Always be cautious when sharing personal information such as your name, home address, phone number, and email address online. Since not divulging any personal information is rarely possible, make sure you only divulge personal information on legitimate websites that you have chosen to access. In most cases your personal details will be required in exchange for a particular product/service so think carefully about what you're getting in return.

  • How do you protect yourself? Think of your personal data as a valuable asset, and reflect rationally on how you want to trade it. Ensure that the products and services you buy and sign up to are from reputable companies: look for privacy policies to ensure you know how your data is being used, and by whom.

  • Also remember that shopping, banking, or any other website that requires your sensitive information should begin with "https:" (i.e. https://www.yourbank.com). The "s" stands for secure and should appear in the URL when you are asked to exchange your details. Keep an eye out for the padlock symbol in the web address field. The padlock, and a green address field means that the page is secure. Once you're finished don't forget to log out from the site to keep your details safe.

  • If you're unsure about the safety of a site you can use SafeWeb, a specially designed website, to check the security of the link

Be sure to watch out for hidden surveillance bugs when online shopping

What does malware have to do with online shopping? Maybe plenty if your device has been infected with a keylogger or Trojan. Once your device is infected, this insidious software sits behind the scenes - unbeknown to you - and records every keystroke, secretly sending back information to the cybercriminals who planted the bug. This includes your address, credit card details or other payment information you've tapped into the most recent 'secure' shopping websites you've ordered from.

  • How do you protect yourself?: Luckily there's a quick fix for this one - keep your security software up to date and any bugs lurking on your computer, laptop or smartphone will be detected and can be removed.