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Stay safe online

Stay safe online

Hints and tips to make the internet a safer place

The internet doesn't have to be daunting. Take a few simple precautions, and you can help protect yourself from common threats.

Website security

How to check a site's credentials

It's vital to protect your identity when you're online, and understand the nature of the sites you visit. This is particularly important if you are asked to provide any personal or account details, for example when buying items, or registering to use a service.

Check how safe sites are

Always check the security of internet banking and shopping sites before you use them, by following these tips:

Always type the full web address directly into your browser

By typing the full web address into your browser instead of clicking links, you greatly reduce your chances of being duped by a counterfeit or spoof site - one that looks like the real thing, but is controlled by criminals.

Always check for 'https' and any padlock or key symbol

Genuine secure sites have addresses that start with 'https' and display a padlock icon or key symbol in your internet browser. This will usually be displayed at the top or bottom of your screen.

Double click the padlock or key symbol

This supplies information that can help you confirm that the site is genuine. If the lock is not within its valid dates or has been issued to a website you don't recognise, do not proceed.

Always log out of secure sites

Never leave your computer unattended when logged in to a secure session, such as internet banking. Make sure you log out properly when you have finished a session, particularly when using online banking.

Become a smarter web user

The more you know about fraud, the less likely you are to become a victim. Credit card fraud, telephone scams and internet fraud all use various mechanisms for doing the same thing: stealing your information.

Protect your information using Rapport safer banking software

You can download free software for extra safe online banking.

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Passwords

 

How to choose them and keep them safe

The best password is one that's easy for you to remember - but impossible for anyone else to guess. Once you've chosen your password, make sure to change it regularly. If you've been using the same passwords for years, it's definitely time for a change. It is also important that you have different passwords so that your whole digital identity is not at risk if your whole account is compromised.

Never share your passwords with anyone. And you should never write down your passwords - or store them on your computer.

Handy hints - choose a good password

Use letters from a phrase or song lyric - for example the nursery rhyme ' The Grand Old Duke of York he had ten thousand men' would give you the phrase 'TGODoYhhttm'. The mix of upper case and lower case letters helps to make the password even more secure

Use a mixture of characters- including upper and lower case letters, as well as numbers. Some sites will allow you to use symbols such as "/" "~" or "&" for even better security

Don't use your PIN - or reuse any other passwords

Don't use family names or birthdays - they are easy for attackers to guess, especially if you use your own name or birthday

Don't use dictionary words - attackers will often use dictionaries of commonly used passwords. So avoid passwords which contain 'real' words (such as 'hello' or 'password'), names, or words in foreign languages

Don't mis-spell common words - attackers are likely to try these combinations as well, especially sequences which replace letters such as 'I' with '1' or 'e' with '3'

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Take special care out in the world

 

You can never be certain about the security of public wireless networks or computers in public places - such as hotels, libraries or internet cafes.

It's recommended you do not access your online banking account in such situations. Preferably, restrict your online activity to viewing a minimum number of sites over a short period of time.

Handy hints

 

Never change your security details while using a public wireless network or a public computer

Never provide your account details to any third parties - such as online shopping sites - while using public facilities

Always ensure you log out properly from your online session when you're finished

Always be aware of the activities of those around you and be aware of "shoulder surfers" - people who watch your every move to try and get your personal details without your knowledge. Ensuring your computer screen cannot be overlooked is good practise for your every day protection, and especially if you are in a public place.

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Online shopping

 

Better safe than sorry

 

Online shopping is becoming more and more popular and convenient - but there are issues to consider before you decide to buy goods and services over the internet. While the vast majority of virtual transactions are safe and secure, fake shopping sites are not unknown.

Debit and credit card security

 

Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode give you an extra layer of security when you use your debit or credit card online.

Handy hints

 

Enter your card details on secure websites only - these are identified by a padlock or key symbol and a site address that changes from 'http' to 'https'

Be careful about providing your account and card details to third parties. If you are at all unsure about buying something from any third party, do not proceed

Never disclose your card PIN to any online seller

Poor grammar or spelling on an email or website may indicate a scam is being attempted

Remember - there is no guarantee that you will receive any item as displayed or described in an advertisement or from public auction sites

Be careful when giving card details as part of "free trials" or "special offers" as you could be authorising unspecified payments in the future - always check the terms & conditions.

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Auction sites

 

Look after your own interests

 

Although buying and selling items using online auction sites can be successful, not every person you encounter is trustworthy and not every selling site is as it seems.

Whether buying or selling, it's always important to know who you are dealing with. And remember - giving your account details to an unknown third party may lead to identify theft.

When buying...

Use secure websites only - these are identified by a padlock or key symbol and a site address that changes from 'http' to 'https'

Check all documentation when you are shopping online and make sure the site is genuine

Know what you are expecting to receive, and preferably order items that are relatively small in value

Always print off any order and find out as much detail about the seller as possible

Remember that it can be time consuming and costly to chase non-receipt of any orders - and this should be considered before purchasing

When selling...

Never release any items until you have received payment in full - and make sure cheques have cleared before handing over goods

Understand the true value of the items you are selling, and do not be tempted to accept the first offer that comes your way

Be aware you may receive counterfeit documents such as drafts or cheques. If you are unsure, ask your bank to check these out for you

Never refund an overpayment from a buyer until you are certain that the payment you have received will not subsequently be returned unpaid

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Social networking

Stay safe when interacting with others

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace are becoming more and more popular, especially among teenagers and young adults. The nature of these sites creates security risks, so you should always be cautious when using them.

These types of sites promote personal connections and communications, and require you to provide a certain amount of personal information.

However, the more information available, the easier it becomes for others to take advantage of your identity. In some cases, criminals could fraudulently exploit this to obtain products and services in your name.

Personal information could also be used to conduct a 'social engineering attack'. Predators may form relationships online and then convince unsuspecting individuals - often young people - to meet them in person, which could lead to a dangerous situation.

Essential tips for protecting your identity:

Always limit the amount of information you provide - do not post information that could be used by third parties, such as your address (home, school or workplace), date of birth, postcode, job title or information about your schedule or routine

Always read and understand privacy policies - some sites may share information such as email addresses or user preferences with other companies. This may lead to an increase in spam and unwanted emails

Remember that the internet is a public resource - so consider how others may view any information provided. Avoid using inappropriate language in your profile in blogs and other forums

Never converse with strangers - the internet makes it easy for predators and cyberbullies to misrepresent their identities and motives

Be sceptical and maintain your integrity - don't believe everything you read online. People may post misleading information about various topics, including their own identities, to lull you into a false sense of security

Change passwords regularly - and use a separate email address for social networking sites

Children are especially susceptible to the threats presented by social networking sites. Parents should inform their children about internet safety and be aware of their online habits. Some useful tips are:

  • Keep your PC in a central, public part of your home
  • Set clear rules for your children's internet use
  • Use family safety or parental controls software

For more information, visit the Information Commissioner's pages for young people.

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