Stay Safe Online

How can I stay more secure when using the internet?

The internet has given us unprecedented access to information, entertainment, goods and services, without all that nasty business of going outside and braving the weather. Unfortunately, it can also give criminals easy access to our personal details. But there is nothing to worry about as long as you take a few simple precautions.

One of the most persistent threats is malicious software, or 'malware'. Malware can include viruses, adware or spyware which can hijack your machine, direct you to unwanted advertising or spy on your activities.

How to Know if Your Computer is Affected

These could all be signs that you have malware. However, the most successful viruses manage to disguise their activities, and will operate silently in the background. If you think your computer is infected, get help as soon as possible. (You can find computer technicians on the Trusted Trader website)

Of course, the best way to stay safe is to take the right precautions. Here are some tips.

Keep Software Up to Date

Malware is written to exploit program vulnerabilities and keeping your software up to date means that these security 'loopholes' can be closed. Most software, such as Microsoft Windows, can be set to automatically search for updates.

Use Anti-Virus Software

Anti-virus software can recognise and stop viruses from infecting your system. There are a number of packages that you can buy, such as Norton or McAfee. Alternatively there are programs which are free for home use, such as Microsoft Security Essentials, Avast and AVG.

Opening Attachments

Be careful when opening files that are sent to you via email, or downloaded from websites. Do you know the person who sent it? Email attachments are a favourite for scammers who want to get control of your computer. If you can't be sure where the file came from, the chances are it's a virus. Don't open it!

Telephone Scams

One particularly troubling scam involves a caller duping you into handing over control of your computer. The way it works is this: you receive a call from someone claiming they are from a computer company, telling you that they have noted problems with your machine. They will then talk you through a number of steps that they say will resolve the problem. This is a scam. Computer companies will never call you and ask you to do this. In fact, what you're doing is opening up your computer to remote access, allowing them to take control of your machine.

Email Scams

You may find yourself being contacted by Nigerian civil servants, deposed Libyan officials or Russian oligarchs, all offering you the opportunity to get in on a life-changing deal that will net you millions. You might even find the Director of the FBI dropping you a line, reassuring you that these deals are all absolutely above board, and that they are definitely, definitely not a scam. What with all these important people, and the many, many foreign lotteries that you keep winning, it seems that you lead a very exotic life indeed. It's only when you realise how extremely unlikely it is that the head of the FBI should be writing to you - and that you've never even heard of these lotteries, let alone entered them - that things start to look a little shady. These are the most persistent types of scams, and they work by getting you to pay an advance fee or providing your bank details.

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