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Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Be secure online

You need to know how to protect yourself and your computer when you are using the internet. Otherwise, you may be at risk from online fraud and your personal details might not stay safe. Find out about the most common risks and the steps you can take to avoid them.

How your computer could be at risk

Most people store a lot of personal information on their computers. If you don’t protect your computer properly when you are online, it’s possible that personal details could be stolen or deleted without you even realising. 

Your computer can be attacked in a number of ways over the internet. Viruses and spy-ware can delete files and allow criminals to scan your computer for personal information. Your computer could even be hacked (where a person gains access to your computer over the internet or through your wireless network).

Get Safe Online has detailed information about the risks to you and your computer and how to deal with them.

Take action to protect yourself and your computer

There are many easy things you can do to make you and your computer more secure when you are on the internet or in a public place.

Get software protection

Get Safe Online has a full list of recommended actions to protect software, from updating your operating system to installing a firewall and antivirus software. It’s best to use all of them, because using just one will still leave your computer at risk from attack.

Use strong passwords

Many websites use passwords to protect your identity. If passwords get into the wrong hands or are easy to guess, your personal details will be easily accessible.

Good passwords should:

  • never be shared (including with helpline staff), written down or observed 
  • be at least seven characters long 
  • be a mixture of lower and upper case letters, numbers and other keyboard characters 
  • changed regularly - every three months is good guide 
  • not be the same on all the sites you use

Log off and collect print-outs

If you’re accessing a site where you have provided personal details or a password, always log off and close your browser window when you've finished. This is especially important if you are using a shared computer – for example, in an internet café or a library.

Make sure you collect anything you print out from the printer, or your personal details might fall into the wrong hands.

Monitor your family's use of the internet

Make sure everyone is aware of internet security and safety issues. This is especially important for young people and children, who may use file-sharing programs, instant messaging and chatrooms more than adults. Think about using parental controls to restrict sites they can view and what they can download. It's usually possible do this through the settings on your internet browser, or you can buy separate software.

Online scams

A scam is an illegal scheme that tries to trick you out of your money. Online scams use the internet and email to do this.

For more information about scams, and what to do if you’re a victim, use the links below.

Reporting fraud

Action Fraud is the UK’s national fraud reporting centre. It is run by the National Fraud Authority – the government agency that helps to co-ordinate the fight against fraud in the UK.

You can report fraud via their website, by calling 0300 123 2040 or by forwarding fraud emails to them. They also provide help and advice for victims of fraud.

Shopping safely online

There are a few steps you can take to shop online safely and keep your financial details secure.

Before you buy

Before you buy online, note down the address, telephone and/or fax of the company you’re buying from. Never rely on just an email address.

Always use secure sites

Sites with 'https' in front of the web address mean the site is using a secure link to your computer. A yellow padlock symbol will appear in the browser window to show the payment process is secure.

When buying online:

  • never transfer or receive money for someone else 
  • check the site's privacy and returns policy 
  • print out a copy of your order and any acknowledgement you receive 
  • check your bank statement carefully against anything you buy online 
  • keep your passwords secure
  • take your time making decisions that involve parting with money 
  • get independent financial advice before making investments 
  • only do business with companies you recognise or have been recommended by someone you trust - don't judge a company on how professional their website looks 
  • if in doubt, check a company is genuine by looking them up on Companies House or the Financial Services Authority (FSA) websites

Choose passwords wisely

Using strong passwords is especially important when you're spending money online. For advice on how to choose a strong password, see 'Use strong passwords' near the beginning of this page.

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Additional links

Get safe online

Find out how to protect yourself from internet threats, like ticketing scams

Race Online 2012

Improve the life chances of the 10m people who have never been online

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