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Top tips help you stay safe online and keep cyber criminals at bay.


We're spending more leisure time than ever at home right now, and the majority of the things we choose to do involve some form of technolog y.

But just as the possibilities have increased - so too have the risks.

Barely a day goes by without a large, well-respected company reporting a security attack or breach, with customers' data being stolen or placed at risk.

And it begs the question: If even the big corporates can't get it right, then how on earth can a home user be expected to protect themselves, and their families? Fear not - because with a little effort and organisation, plus good communication with your loved ones, there are simple and effective ways of reducing your risk to the fraudster and scammer.

First of all, the key thing to remember is that your information is valuable to someone; that is why websites always ask questions about yourself and encourage you to register to use their services.

The secret is, don't tell everybody everything! Do you really need to provide personal details when you are buying a pack of batteries online? Couldn't you just checkout as a guest? And is your social media page open to the world so that anyone can see the sort of details that could be used to make a scam more personal to you? Keep your private information privatehere are a few top tips on how to do it.

? Passwords - Don't use the same password for every site or device you use, in case you are compromised. There are many secure password apps such as Keepass ( that let you easily save your different passwords, so you don't have to remember them all. If you are going to use a package like this, though, the password you choose must be longer than you would normally use.

Everybody hates passwords, but they are your necessary friend, keeping you safe. Don't try to be too clever and use lots of odd characters, as the fraudsters treat them just the same as other characters - so all you're doing is making your own life harder.

The modern approach is to use three short random words put together to form a longer word. For instance 'BlueLemon-Friday' gives you a 15 character password, and if the site requires other complexity like a symbol or number, you can add that before, after or in the middle.

? Anti-virus Devices - Chances are, you've already got a good anti-virus device on your home computer (you certainly should have!), but what about your mobile devices or tablets? Some vendors claim their device doesn't need them, but good anti-virus packages can help identify when you may be inadvertently accessing dodgy sites, or if apps are doing things you aren't expecting them to do.

There are a lot out there, but some notable ones are from Sophos, Comodo, or AVG; a quick search for anti-virus app in your application store of choice will give you many others.

? Home broadband - Most vendors provide you with a customised router with the default password changed to something specific to you, and with some basic protections enabled on the device. Some also offer extra security services to provide extra protection, and these may be useful to have.

But have you checked? If your router's administration details have not been changed, it's worth doing to make sure that the world cannot get on by using login details like 'admin'. Also if you have upgraded or replaced your router, make sure you've changed the admin user details.

? Smart Devices - Nowadays, with our homes connected to the world, we can manage our heating, lighting, garage door, fridges, ovens and door bells from anywhere with an internet connection. It's fantastically convenient - but has also opened up a whole new area to the maliciously minded.

Many devices do come with basic security you can enable ... but have you? For example, are you happy that images or sounds of your voice from your new webcam doorbell are captured for analysis? Just like your internet router, it's important not to leave the security on the default password, as this can be easily searched for on the web - it is not a secret.

? Backing up your data - What if your device breaks down and you suddenly can't access important files or pictures? There are many personal cloud services available from the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Google and others. Most have a free service for you to store your personal files and pictures, so that should your physical device die on you, all of your precious family photos are not lost.

With these services, again you must make sure that you have a secure password - these are your memories, and household accounts, so why not take that extra time to protect them properly? ? Ian Churms and Nathan Morgan work in the Information and Communications Technology department at Shropshire Council


How can you protect yourself and your family online?
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Publication:Shropshire Star (Shropshire, England)
Date:Jun 17, 2020
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