5 ways to keep your online accounts safeSimple advice for staying safe online

06 May 2011

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2011

Recent leaks of account data online has reminded us of how important it is to keep your data safe online. Here we give you five quick tips to avoid having your online accounts hijacked.

1) Install strong security software

It seems obvious, but this is the first thing you should do. Going online brings security risks. These include coming into contact with deliberately malicious and discreet software (aka malware), misleading junk email and the possibility of inadvertently compromising your own privacy. 

Installing good security software including a firewall and an anti-virus program provides a great first line of defence. And you needn't spend a penny. 

2) Choose secure passwords for your accounts

Many passwords in use are relatively easy to guess, 123456, password, abc123 have been found to be all too common. 

Go for something hard to guess, but easy to remember. For example, try taking a sentence and turning it into a password by looking at the first letter of each word, and using numbers and capitals too. Something like “This little piggy went to market” might become 'tlpWENT2m'. 

Also, use different passwords for different sites to spread the risk.

3) Be wary of spam phishing emails

Spam is unsolicited email that you may receive. Much of it is merely annoying, but some can ask you for personal information directly, or lead you to websites on which you are asked to enter personal information. This is known as phishing. Most of these websites look genuine but aren't - fake online banking websites, for example. 

Do not open or reply to any suspicious looking emails, just delete them.

Most genuine organisations won't ask you for personal information directly in an email. Always call your bank if you are in doubt of any emails pertaining from them.

4) Be careful when using public computers

Using a public computer, for example at a library or an internet cafe, brings additional risks, not least the fact that someone could be watching you closely over your shoulder. Avoid online banking completely. When logging onto your email, select the "no cache" option if possible, say "no" if you are asked if you want to remember your password, and completely log out when you're finished emailing. 

Clear your browsing history and cookies too when you've finished your session.

5) How to get rid of an old computer safely

Deleting data before disposing of your computer is the first step, but it's possible to recover data even after it has been deleted. The safest method is to remove the hard disk from the machine and destroy it. Dropping it onto a hard floor or hitting it with a hammer will prevent any data falling into the wrong hands.