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How safe are you online?-#saferinternetday

We are living in an increasingly digitally obsessed world. The internet controls everything we do as we use it socially, in our work life and at home. Having a presence online enables us to fulfil our social belonging and self-esteem needs as we make and develop meaningful connections and relationships. Additionally, it also acts as a knowledge base, a place for innovation and a place for your voice to be heard, therefore giving us opportunities to self-actualise. However, the dark side of the internet contains cybercriminals and the dangers and concerns are continuously portrayed in the media through various fictions and the news.

What is #saferinternetday?

#saferinternetday is an annual celebration of a safer and better internet. On Tuesday 6th February 2018, the relevant theme is “Create, connect and share respect: A better internet starts with you”. This is a global movement which aims to create an internet where everyone is empowered to use technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively. It educates parents, teachers, counsellors and children on how to embrace the positive opportunities of the internet whilst using it safely.

So, here are the Top 10 tips for staying safe online!

Create a private and safe online environment

Privacy on the internet is becoming increasingly vulnerable. The culture we live in is responsible for encouraging us to document our lives online with little consideration for privacy. It’s important to check all of your account settings and set them to private. Additionally, you need to be cautious with geotagging which is tagging and sharing your exact location with others. If you don’t want this feature you need to ensure it hasn’t automatically enabled itself and that you disable it.

Logging in and Logging out

It may seem obvious but you should protect all of your devices and accounts with a password. When creating a password there is a criterion you should follow. Your password should;

  • be at least 12 characters in length;
  • be complex by including a combination of numbers, special characters and upper case and lower case letters;
  • use unique passwords across different websites.

To enhance security you could use two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication. They work by asking the user to present two or more pieces of evidence other than a password in order for access to be granted. Finally, you should always remember to log out of all accounts and out of your computer.

Don’t believe everything you read online

Fake news was a hot topic last year and as technology develops it is becoming an increasingly prominent concern. It’s the deliberate distribution of lies with the goal of swaying public opinion or dividing people. In order to stay safe from fake news you should;

  • gather your information from multiple sources;
  • don’t share it;
  • think critically and analyse what you are reading. Does it sound realistic?

Hate speech and cyberbullying

A major risk faced by people online is cyberbullying or online victimisation. However, there are ways in which you can keep yourself and others safe from cyberbullying online;

  • if you’re a victim of cyber bullying don’t suffer in silence. It’s important to seek help and not deal with it alone by talking to family, friends and teachers. You can also call a UK bullying hotline: 0808 800 2222. Alternatively, don’t ignore it if you see cyberbullying going on and make sure you report it and offer your support. If you receive any physical threats report this to parents, guardians, school or the local police;
  • don’t respond or retaliate and save the evidence;
  • use available tech tools to block the person whether the harassment is in an app, texting, comments or tagged photos on social media. Additionally, you can report the harassment to the social media platform or website. 

Install anti-virus Software

Anti-virus software prevents, detects and removes malicious software including computer viruses, trojan horses, spyware and adware. However, when purchasing antivirus software you should ensure that it is a trusted and well-known subscription-based program.

Be careful when shopping or banking online

When you’re shopping and banking online it’s important to ensure there is a padlock symbol in the web browser window when you have logged in or registered and the web address should begin with ‘https://’. The ‘s’ stands for secure. Furthermore, it’s important to never transfer any money directly to a bank account or hand over any personal details.

Manage your email messages effectively

We use email services every day, at home and at work as it allows for easier and more efficient communication. It’s important to be ‘clicksmart’ and never open or forward suspicious-looking emails or respond to someone you don’t know. Clicking on these spam emails can make you vulnerable to phishing This is the attempt to obtain your sensitive information often for malicious reasons.

Boost your network security

Use a secure WIFI which you protect with a strong password and be cautious when using free public Wi-Fi. To protect your network from others you can set up a firewall which blocks unauthorised access to your computers and devices connected to your network. It also protects ‘Internet of things’ (IoT) such as thermostats and webcams which don’t have security measures and therefore give hackers vulnerable points of entry to your entire network.

Be careful socially on the internet

Social media is a massive part of the online world. Although it has its advantages, we tend to overlook safety within a social environment. You need to ensure you;

  • guard your personal information such as your address, email, mobile and birth date because it is sensitive information which can make you vulnerable to crime such as identity theft fraud.
  • be careful about what photos and videos you post. Avoid photos of the home, work, school and anything you’re regularly associated with because it makes it easier for people you don’t know to track your location. Remember that anything you post online is no longer yours and it will be online forever.
  • following closely with the theme of this year’s #saferinternetday (Create, connect and share respect: A better internet starts with you”) it’s important to be the best version of yourself online by being friendly and respectful towards others.
  • be careful who you talk to and give your information to online. For example, when filling out forms ask yourself, ‘does this person really need this information about me?’ Also when you’re talking to people online make sure you physically know the person before giving them your personal information. They could be manipulating you into thinking they’re someone they’re not.

Keep up to date with the latest online threats

Finally, keep up to date with the latest security threats and subsequently the systems you can use to protect yourself from these threats when online. For example, ransomware is on the rise, which is where a hacker threatens to lock you out of all of your files unless you agree to pay a ransom. To protect yourself from this you can backup your files, be suspicious of emails, websites and apps, use an antivirus program, always install updates and never pay the ransom.


But what about my data?

The General Data Protection Regulation will come into force on May 25th, 2018. It will change data protection rules and the way in which organisations handle customer information. Your personal data (anything that allows you to be directly or indirectly identified) such as your name and address and sensitive data such as your genetic data or religious and political views will all be protected by GDPR.

It will give individuals a lot more power to access the information that’s held about them. You’ll be able to get confirmation that an organisation has information about you and in most circumstances, you’ll have the power to get your personal data erased. If controllers or processors of data (individuals, organisations or companies) do not follow the GDPR guidelines and practice effective data management, they will be subject to tougher fines.

As a business how do I know what I should do with data?

If you own a business you will be aware of the new laws coming in May. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is intended to strengthen and unify data for all individuals within the EU. It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU. The GDPR aims primarily to give control back to citizens and residents over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business. Under these new laws, as a business, you need to have a legitimate reason to hold a person’s data and this needs to be reviewed on a regular basis. Silence is no longer the choice to opt in – that now needs to be in writing. Failure to follow the new laws could leave to substantial fines.

For more information, we have been hosting, in conjunction with Jeremy  Aldous-Fountain of Hexad Information Security Services Ltd, free seminars explaining the new law – the next one being on 14th February. For a more in-depth understanding, we also run paid for workshops for business and charities.

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