How to stay safe online

The internet can be a risky place especially for your personal data. Here’s how to stay safe online.

Guard your personal data

Publishing your personal data online or sharing it with the wrong site could put you at risk of identify fraud so you need to be very careful.

Thankfully there are some simple steps you can take to protect your data.

Check for https

Whenever you’re entering personal information online you should be on a secure web page.

You can check this by looking at the start of the website address, it should begin with https rather than http. They may also display a padlock next to the url as well.

If you’re being asked to create an account, pay for a transaction or share your contact information and you’re not on a page starting with https then your connection is not secure.

Use strong passwords

Your password exists to protect your personal information, so it needs to be up to the job. A strong password should:

  • Be at least 12 characters long
  • Include letters, numbers and symbols
  • Not be a common word that’s easy to guess
  • Not use obvious character substitutions, for example T0ast or El3phant

You should try and use a different password for each account you have online. This reduces the risk should one of your passwords be compromised.

If you’re struggling to remember all your passwords a password manager could help.

Keep your security software up to date

Your security software helps protect you from malicious encounters online so making sure it’s up to date and fighting fit is essential.

Before you get online make sure you have the following software:

  • Anti-virus
  • Firewall

Watch out for scams

Unfortunately there are lots of people online who are trying to get access to your information.

Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, then it usually is. If you’re unsure whether a website or offer is dodgy check the following:

  • Are there any reviews for the company?
  • Do they have a registered address and phone number you can check?

If after checking you’re still not sure always play it safe.

Protect your children

Children in particular can be vulnerable online but there are some simple steps you can take to help keep them safe:

Talk about internet safety

Speaking to your kids about what to watch out for online is crucial, whether they’re using the internet for gaming, socialising with friends or just browsing.

Some key points to talk about include:

  • Not talking to strangers - only message people they know
  • Being careful what information they share online
  • How to spot if something’s a scam or too good to be true

For more help visit the Webwise website which is full of tips and tools to help.

Google has also created a game called Interland which teaches players all about internet safety.

Set up parental controls

Most broadband suppliers offer the option to set up free parental controls at a household level.

These restrict access to websites that contain age inappropriate content - some even let you create a ‘whitelist’ of sites that can be accessed.

Visit your broadband supplier’s website or give them a call to see how to activate them in your home.

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube also offer different content settings so it’s worth checking these out when your child is creating an account to make sure you’re happy.