7 top internet safety tipsSafer Internet Day to promote online protection

06 February 2011

Internet security day

You don't need a personal army you keep you safe online. Follow our top tips and you'll be just fine.

Online safety and security is becoming ever more important in an increasingly digital age. In advance of Safer Internet Day on Tuesday, Which? has highlighted its top tips for staying safe and secure online. 

1. Install online security software and keep it updated

Security software protects your computer from viruses, spyware and other internet nasties. Without security software, you run the risk of inviting unwanted and often malevolent guests, such as a virus or a worm, into your PC. 

Criminals are constantly coming up with new ways to try and get round security software, so it's vital to keep software up to date. So set your security software to update automatically and to scan for viruses regularly.

You don't have to pay the earth for good security software - some is even free. Find out more in the Which? security software program reviews. 

2. Be wary of unfamiliar emails and pop ups

A common way criminals to target web users is via links in emails. If you receive an online message from an unfamiliar source - whether to your email account or via a social networking site like Facebook - think twice before clicking on any links. 

Be wary even if the email seems to come from a friend - hackers have been known to hijack peoples' accounts and use them to send out messages to all their contacts. 

The same rule applies to unfamiliar pop ups when you visit certain websites - some of which disguise themselves as security messages. Unless the pop up is from security software you know you have installed, don't click on it.

3. Only use secure shopping sites

Before you buy anything online, check the site uses a secure server.

The web address of a secure webpage starts with https instead of http, and you'll see a padlock symbol in the bottom of your browser. Double-click the padlock icon to reveal a digital certificate that confirms that the website is what it says it is.

4. Protect your online ID

All internet browsers collect personal information about what you do and where you go online. Often it's for legitimate purposes - such as remembering the items in a shopping basket. But armed with a few choice facts about you, an ID thief might be able to open a bank account in your name or, worse, access your bank or credit card account.

Publicly accessed computers - such as in internet cafes - are particularly vulnerable. You can find out how to minimise the risk of criminals accessing your details in the free Which? guide to protecting your online ID.

5. Use strong online passwords

Good passwords are the key to keeping our personal data safe. It's tempting to use easy to remember words and phrases - such as your mother's maiden name - but you might be surprised to learn just how easy it is to find out information like this from public records, for example.

The most secure passwords use a combination of letters, words and symbols - it's wise to use complex passwords for anything involving personal finance, in particular.

Find out more about how to choose an online password and how to remember multiple passwords. 

6. Educate your children about online safety

If your children have access to the internet - whether on a computer or a mobile phone - make sure you have educated them about the risks of using the web and how to stay safe. Appropriate safety guidelines will vary depending on the age of the child - Which? has put together some guidelines for under 10s and 11-16 year olds to get you on the right track.

7. Secure your wireless network

If you connect to the internet at home using a wireless router, you'll need to secure your wireless network to ensure other people within your wireless range can't use your internet connection and possibly gain access to your computer.

If you don't, and someone uses your wireless network for activity such as illegal filesharing, you could be held responsible for this.

As long as they're secured, wireless networks are a safe and convenient way to connect to the internet. To find out more, check out the Which? reviews of wireless routers.

Safer Internet Day is a worldwide internet safety initiative organised by Insafe - a European network of Awareness Centres promoting safe, responsible use of the Internet and mobile devices to young people.

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