Choose strong passwords – and keep them safe
Passwords are your entry point to the world wide web. They mean you can access Facebook, check your email, buy things, transfer money and so much more.
But a weak password can be easy to hack. And if someone finds out your password, they could use it to pretend they’re you and do things like:
- Access your bank accounts.
- Buy things with your money.
- Pretend to be you on social media.
- Commit other types of fraud.
A weak password is generally defined as something that’s very easy to guess – such as ‘password’, ‘123456’ or a well-known football team. It’s also not a good idea to use the same password for multiple accounts. If a hacker guesses one account, they then have the keys to everything else.
Choose a strong password by:
- Choosing something complex and unique.
- Using a mix of numbers, letters, special characters and upper and lower case.
Keep your passwords safe, too – don’t put them on a Post-it on your monitor.
Change your password regularly
As well as choosing hard-to-guess passwords and keeping them triple-locked, away from the prying eyes of hackers, it’s a good idea to change your passwords regularly. Try and change your passwords between every 30 and 180 days. If it gets tricky remembering the new passwords every time you change them, consider a password manager tool like LastPass or KeePass.
- Watch adult content safely
If you watch adult content, take care. Criminals use some adult content websites to distribute malware, through which they could look at your financial transactions, access your files, commit identity fraud and more.
Watch adult content safely by:
- Using mainstream, well-known websites.
- Do not click on external links to other websites from adult content sites.
- Don’t view adult content on a shared computer or a device that could be accessed by children.
Know how to spot spam emails
At best, spam emails are used to deliver junk – unwanted but harmless mail. At worst, they are malicious. Here’s how to spot and deal with spam emails.
Spam email comes typically in the form of annoying, unwanted material – promotional marketing for medicines, gambling, hoax virus emails, emails that purport to be from your bank but actually aren’t, the list goes on.
The following are signs that an email could be spam:
- It comes from an email you don’t recognise.
- It’s badly written with typos and other errors.
- Says something like ‘act now’ or ‘urgent’.
- Contains attachments.
Minimise spam by:
- Question any email you think looks suspect.
- Turning your email spam filter on.
- Never opening or responding to a spam mail.
Install antivirus and antispyware software and firewalls
The number of new viruses criminals develop to target us is growing and growing. Ensure you download antivirus software and setup firewalls to give you the best protection. Such programmes will help keep you safe by:
- Scanning emails.
- ‘Health-checking’ your whole computer.
- Check downloads to make sure they’re legitimate.
You can pay for antivirus software and firewalls, although there are free platforms available too.
Watch out for public wi-fi
In general public wi-fi is great. It means we can check-in online when we’re out and about – in the library, on the bus, in the pub, wherever. But there’s a few things to watch out for when using public wi-fi services.
That’s because public wifi is sometimes used by hackers to target people using the service. Stay safe when using public wifi by:
- Using wifi from a well-known provider.
- Log out of everything once you’ve finished using it.
- Don’t send private information or do financial transactions when using it.
Remember that the internet is public
Almost everything you post online will be, in some way, publicly accessible. That means information you post about yourself could fall into the wrong hands. Some top tips for being careful when posting online:
- Never give out personal details like your address or bank details on social media.
- Don’t do a Facebook post saying you’re going on holiday.
Bank online safely
Banking online is becoming increasingly commonplace and it’s not hard to see why. Being able to make payments, check your account, transfer money, apply for a loan and more, all from the comfort of your computer and without a trip to the bank itself, is extremely convenient.
But online banking is, of course, another area where criminals and hackers are lying in wait. Thankfully, banks are well aware of this and have made lots of progress in making online banking as safe as possible. When you’re banking online, or setting up a payday loan, then you need to be careful that your personal details are not easily accessible, particularly if you’re on a public computer, or WiFi hotspot.
Bank safely on the web by:
- Only banking when using a trusted internet connection – be wary of making transactions over an unsecured network like public wifi.
- Don’t do internet banking on a shared computer, or one you think might be infected.
- Use banks’ recommended software which gives extra protection against hackers.
Don’t get duped by copycat websites
Copycat websites purport to offer you a service – typically a government service like renewing your driving licence. In fact, they are not the official service and can be used to extract money from you and get your personal information. Through clever search engine optimisation techniques, these sites can often rank higher than their genuine counterparts in a Google search.
Some copycat websites are very cleverly designed and are easy to be fooled by. Don’t get caught out:
Check the website’s URL – an official government site, for example, should end in ‘.gov.uk’
Don’t just use the first website that pops up in a search query – remember that some of these copycat sites rank higher than authentic ones.
Watch out for obvious signs that something’s not quite right – like typos.
Monitor and update regularly
Finally, it’s good practice to monitor your internet use regularly. This means checking your bank accounts on a weekly basis, changing your passwords regularly, reporting anything suspicious and ensuring your antivirus, antispyware and firewall software is fully updated.
This might be a bit time-consuming, but it’s a whole heap better than falling victim to fraud or having your computer infected with a virus.
Generic advice is not a service regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.