Staying safe online

Some steps you can take to support your online security and privacy include:

• Ensure your operating system(s) are current and up to date

Operating systems (such as Windows, Mac OS and Linux) will usually have a way to download and apply patches and updates. These are important as they keep the system updated, often against weaknesses that can potentially lead to vulnerabilities. It is also important to update very old operating systems that may no longer be supported, to newer supported versions.

• Use of a firewall

Firewalls can secure and control the flow of information to or from a machine or network. This can be separate hardware, or software and even though many home broad band routers have them built in, it’s still good practice to have one on your computer or device where available as well.

• Have up to date anti-virus and anti-malware software running on your device

Viruses and malware are are forms of malicious software that can have a range of effects on systems, including but not limited to slowing them down, using them as part of a bot net group of compromised machines attacking other targets without you knowing, or recording and transmitting everything you see on your screen or type on your keyboard.

• Ensuring your applications and any other hardware are updated where possible

It’s worth making sure any other devices that you may use or have on your home network are up to date in a similar way to operating systems previously mentioned. Weaknesses can be exploited directly or cumulatively as part of compromising a system. Consult your product documentation or vendor for more information.

• Use trusted and reputable software and vendors

Software from non-reputable sources may potentially be compromised and include hidden malicious functionality. Having up to date anti-virus and anti-malware software can help reduce this risk.

• Treat unexpected or unknown emails with attachments and/or links with caution

There are increasingly sophisticated messages and scams that will try to trick you in to opening files containing ransomware that may then encrypt your entire computer demanding a ransom to decrypt it, or links that take you to sites to try and get you to provide log on details or to load compromised websites to further infect your machine.

• Use strong passwords

Avoid repeating passwords from other services or making minor incremental changes (such as adding 1, 2, 3..). This can be quite common, cyber criminals are prepared for that and will try passwords compromised from one service, on others used by the same client/person. Sometimes using a sentence can make having a longer password easier to remember.

Generally, the more layers of security you apply the better, and while some key points have been highlighted here, there are many others to be considered. You can find many appropriate solutions for the points listed above by consulting security vendors or online retailers for assurance from accounts.

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