October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) an annual campaign to raise awareness about cyber security and promote online safety. Being in the IT industry we know the high importance of this. In today’s online world, it is paramount to know how to stay safe online to minimize any risk of falling victim of cybercrime. Here are some useful and simple steps to take in how to stay safe online.
1. Use strong passwords and regularly change them.Ideally, your password should be a good mix of numbers and uppercase and lowercase letters between 9-16 characters long and free of repetition. Avoid online auto-generated passwords as this opens the doors to snooping, targeting and intrusion from third parties.2. Secure your emailMicrosoft Outlook and other email platforms allow you to install a personal security certificate and a digital signature for free. These features can be used to encrypt emails so that only trusted users can read them, binding together a public key with an identity to provide assurance to the recipient that you signed the contents of the electronic mail.
3. Take caution before opening an emailAlways, be cautious of fake emails, phishing and spoof emails. Think twice before opening an email if you have your suspicions that it is fake. Do not reply, click on any links or download any attachments as they are a common source of viruses.To help you from email phishing and spoof emails - an attempt to trick you and steal personal data, NEVER give anyone passwords, bank details or other personal information over email. Scam artists are very good at throwing the ‘bait’ avoid being a fish that gets caught, this is why it’s called ‘Phishing’. Look out for common emails that are trying to sell you something, giving you a sob story that plays on your heartstrings to ask you for money, or emails saying that you’ve won a prize in a competition that you don’t remember entering.Moreover, always look into the origin of the email sender, a typical spoof email is when at first it may appear that an email is a person, company or institution that you recognise but in reality, it’s not. The best way to check this is to look up the entity you think it’s from and check that it matches the address in the email. If still in doubt, simply give them a call to clarify.
4. Get virtualYour computer runs a lot of software programs and holds your personal data, you’ll want to keep it safe. Anti-virus software can detect and prevent any threat of malicious malware and viruses. However, it is only one layer of security. Consider running your machine in a virtual environment. Virtualisation makes it more difficult for data theft and prevents your computer from being infected.
5. Check your online footprintWe live in a digital information age where there is a huge amount of personal data and professional data about us on the Internet. This passive collection is known as a ‘digital footprint’ created on each and every one of us. Like it or not, it’s a high-security risk. Nonetheless, you can help yourself by taking the priority to check your footprint online and initialize the steps in tightening your security settings and removing or requesting the removal of specific data from the site it’s hosted on. It may seem like a lot of work but it will be worth your peace of mind and help keep you safe online. Alternatively, you can contact the London Digital Security Centre https://londondsc.co.uk/ and pay a fee to them to sweep everything about you and help get sensitive information about you removed.
6. Clean your Internet browserInternet browsers that you use on any PC and mobile devices will collect an archive of the sites that you have visited and kept them stored in the Internet browsers ‘cache’ memory. Internet browsers also collect browsing data known as ‘cookies’. Both cache and cookies are temporary internet files stored to speed up your browsing experience, but manually clearing them up can help prevent data theft from hackers.How to refresh your browser's cache and cookies, depends on the browser you are using. A useful page to visit where you can choose your browser and use a step-by-step instruction is www.refreshyourcache.com. If you want to save yourself the trouble of having to clean your Internet browser again, you could always surf the Internet in ‘Incognito mode’ a form of private browsing that prevents the online activity from being tracked or retrieved at a later date. However, do not assume you’re anonymous, each page that you visit still recognizes your IP address. How to activate incognito mode depends on the browser you are using. A useful page to use is www.wikihoe.com/Activate-Incognito-Mode.
7. Always check for secure website signs for your online shoppingYou can verify that a website is secure before you purchase something online, simply by looking at the website address. If the URL prefix with “HTTPS” instead of “HTTP” this means that it uses an SSL certificate, which means that it is secure. You could also look out for a small padlock typically located on the left-hand side of the browser, this icon also signifies that the site is secure.
8. Be aware of potential risks with home or professional sharing.Generally, people have a tenancy to share home computers, mobile devices and professional desktops and mobile devices. Although it cannot always be avoided, it’s always good to try and keep an eye on who’s been using your machine or handheld devices and what for. You may be cautious and doing everything you can to prevent cybercrime but innocently or intentionally someone could potentially put you at risk.Your online safety is important. Stay safe!
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