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STAY SAFE ONLINE: 12 WAYS
In the run up to Christmas, everyone is purchasing festive goods and services online daily, and cyber safety can easily get pushed to the back of the mind during this especially busy period. Sadly, it’s a prime time for hackers to create spoof websites and steal data (or money) from unsuspecting individuals.
According to an industry guidance document produced by Prevention of Fraud in Trade Ltd, every month cyber criminals register around 1.4 million phishing websites many of which are spoofed, cloned, or copycat websites designed to look like legitimate websites.
So, during this busy Christmas time and beyond, how can you stay safe online? Here are 12 ways to protect yourself. (It had to be 12 at this time of year!)
1. Spot a Phishing Website
It’s always worth checking a website’s Uniform Resource Locator (URL) when you’re ordering or booking online. As you’ll likely know, the URL is the web address you type into your internet browser.
And whilst it's easy to say 'only use secure and reputable websites', how do you know they actually are. To check, always look for ‘https://’ in the URL. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’. Look out for misspelled URLs, they may look similar to the real one like, amazon.co.uk vs amaz.on.uk or, a .org web address. Double check it is the organisation’s official website.
Plus, it’s also advisable to avoid buying when you’re on a public WiFi network. Many companies provide Virtual Private Network (VPN) services for their employees, especially for those who need to work remotely or travel frequently. Additionally, there are numerous commercial VPN services available that individuals can subscribe to for personal use. This enables a secure and connected connection over the internet.
2. Make sure your devices are secure
Always install software updates on all your devices including computers, smartphones and tablets, to ensure you have the very latest security updates.
Remember to review your passwords regularly too, by creating a unique, strong password. And where possible, use two-factor or biometric authentication for added protection.
3. WiFi Security
To help keep your home Wi-Fi network secure with strong password and encryption, avoid using default router passwords and consider changing your Wi-Fi password regularly.
4. Practice good password hygiene
You wouldn’t use the same toothbrush as everyone else, would you? It’s the same for passwords, avoid using the same password across multiple websites and accounts.
Passwords are becoming more and more complex as criminals find ways to counter the latest standards. If you haven’t already, use a reputable password manager to help you store your details.
5. Recognise phishing emails
A staggering 15.3 billion spam emails estimated to pass through the internet every day. (Source: Slashnext.com, The State of Phishing Report 2022), which makes it more important than ever to recognise a Phishing email.
Phishing emails claim to be from a reputable source but in fact are look-a-like websites with a fake login page aping a legitimate website, to trick people into entering their login details. The attacker could then use those details to access personal accounts like emails, bank accounts, work accounts and contacts.
Avoid clicking on links that may be suspicious, they might have a misspelled domain name in the email address for example.
Also, be wary of generic greetings like ‘Dear Customer’ as well as spelling, and grammar errors. Or changes in tone of the email to those you usually receive from the company in question.
If you’re not sure, always verify requests for personal or financial information. Legitimate organisations don’t usually request this kind of detail via email. Check with the organisation via an official channel.
6. Social media sharing
It’s so tempting but think twice about sharing your purchases and plans for Christmas, especially if you’re travelling. Posting about expensive gifts also may attract unwanted attention.
7. Update your privacy settings
Remember too to review your privacy settings to make sure you’re in control of who can see your posts. Think about whether you’re comfortable with what you’re sharing and be mindful of who you’re sharing it with.
8. Scams using gift cards
Look out too, for emails or messages asking for payment in the form of gift cards. Again, genuine organisations will not request payment in this way. Verify any unusual requests with the supposed sender through a trusted means.
9. Be aware of charity scams
Christmas is a time for giving. And we don’t want to stop you doing this but before donating, especially if you receive a request for a charity donation, think twice. Go to the charity’s official website or contact the charity directly to ensure it reaches the intended recipient.
10. Check your children's online activity
You may have children at home. It’s always worth monitoring their online activity. Wherever you can, use the parental control facilities to restrict access to inappropriate content and educate them about online safety.
11. Keep an eye on your bank statements
With multiple payments flying out of your account at this time of year, it’s worth keeping a look-out on a regular basis for payments that don’t look familiar. And if you spot something that doesn’t look familiar, report it to your bank immediately.
12. Remind your work colleagues, friend and family too
Educating the people in your life about online safety is crucial – help them to understand potential threats, especially if you’re sharing accounts or devices!
We hope these reminders keep you safe this Christmas!
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