Home Computing – How to Keep Safe



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Home Computing – How to Keep Safe

As the internet becomes increasingly central to our day to day lives, we collectively find ourselves spending more time online while at home.

Everyday tasks can be completed with the click of a button – making PC’s and laptops essential living tools. However, if you do use home computing frequently, it is vital to ensure that you take measures to protect yourself against potential threats.

Unfortunately, there are many malicious, inappropriate – and sometimes criminal – websites lurking around out there. Should you chance upon one, you could expose yourself to potentially harmful viruses and spyware (known as malware), phishing (a method used to obtain your personal and/or financial details – and in a worst case scenario, steal your identity), fraud, copyright infringement (via the copying/sharing/downloading of protected software, videos, music, photos and other data) and exposure to inappropriate content.

Here are a few tips to help you keep safe while home computing:

Safe Browsing

Trust your instincts and use common sense when you are browsing the internet. Check for the presence of a physical address, phone number and/or email contact – all can be indications of a genuine website. If you have doubts, call or email the company in question to establish authenticity. Secure websites will always have a padlock in the window or start with ‘https:’. Do not enter any personal information unless you trust the source – and if you suspect that a site isn’t legit, leave it immediately.

Anti-Virus Software

Keep your PC/laptop safe using verified anti-virus software. Always research the provider before you install any programmes – many advanced viruses and spyware can pose as anti-virus software. Keep your anti-virus software up-to-date by running any suggested updates; viruses and malware evolve over time. There are many very good free products available online but please do your research or ask an expert for advice first.

Attachments, Downloads and Toolbars

Never, ever, open an attachment in an email unless you know the person who sent it. The same goes for clicking on any links. On some occasions, if the senders email account has been compromised, you may recognise the sender but the content of the email may look out of character, always err on the side of caution, once you click on that link or open that attachment you are effectively allowing access to your system. Not all malware is malicious and out to cause you damage, some will endlessly pop up adverts slowing your system down, or add toolbars to your browser. As a rule I never allow any 3rd party software to create a toolbar in my browser. I would advise you to do the same.

Strong Passwords

When you are choosing passwords for your PC/laptop and online sites, consider your options carefully. Variations of your name, address and DOB can easily be guessed by potential hackers. Use a combination of lower and upper case characters, numbers, and if possible, special characters, to create the strongest possible password. Avoid using the same password for more than one website – and don’t write them down or store them anywhere without encryption. A good trick is to use 2 or 3 normal words put together, with a mixture of numbers and characters replacing some of the letters, ie, h0u5eh@tf!sh

Back-Up Your Data

Should the worst thing happen, i.e. you do become a victim of online hacking, or if your PC/laptop breaks down, the last thing that you want is to lose all of your data. Make sure that you back up your system on a regular basis. Modern operating systems will periodically ask for your permission to do this – don’t be tempted to skip the process. Store confidential information on removable memory sticks or other backup devices, and keep them safe.

Control Access

If you have children you won’t want them accessing certain web pages. The same applies to households with multi internet users. Always protect your computer with a password and make use of the viewing restriction options on your internet browser and/or in your anti-virus software to keep a track of who can see what. Take the time to learn how your Internet Service Providers Parental Controls work, if you are unsure don’t be afraid to contact them and ask for advice.

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