A list of practical tips to help you safeguard your online life…
Protect your e-mail
When you submit your e-mail address for the latest sales information from an online shop or join a new website, your e-mail address can be passed on to the direct mailing lists of a host of marketeers. E-mail addresses that are publicly available are also often ‘harvested’ by spammers and sold on, leaving you vulnerable to so-called ‘phishing’ attacks.
- Don’t use your personal or work e-mail when you need to register an e-mail address. Instead, set up a third e-mail address and use that. If this account gets hijacked by spammers, you can always delete it.
Recognise secure websites
Look for the letters ‘https’ in front of the web address – the ‘s’ standing for secure – and for a little padlock icon. Click on this to view security details, including info on whether the website owners have a digital certificate that has been issued by a trusted third party. The padlock also shows that all communication between you and the certificate owner will be secure from eavesdroppers as long as the padlock is displayed.
- However, be aware that the padlock does have some limitations: It doesn’t say anything about the company’s business ethics or IT security.
- Only valid certificates issued by approved authorities are trustworthy. Anybody can create a certificate and your browser will warn you if one doesn’t come from the handful of approved issuers.
- Double click on the padlock and check the certificate for yourself, especially if the site you are visiting is less well-known or if you have any concerns about security. Does the name on the certificate match the name of the company behind the website? Is it current or out of date? Has it been issued by a Certificate Authority that you trust?
Play it safe
Identity fraud is one of the biggest risks of online banking. Be aware of phishing e-mails that may appear to come from your bank or other trusted organisations but link to fake, but often very realistic, websites. If a link in an e-mail takes you to a page requiring a password or personal information, it’s probably a scam.
- Protect your computer by using anti-virus software and keep it up to date, and also download the latest security updates for your web browser and operating system.
- Remain private by not letting information loose in cyberspace. The web has spawned a host of word games or quizzes, for example, that people often complete then pass on to friends. It might seem fleetingly amusing to pair certain pieces of information – say your mother’s maiden name and where you were born – to get your Hollywood star name. However, this information is commonly used as reminder questions by banks and credit card databases, so revealing
it online could be leaving your accounts at risk of being accessed by cybercriminals who then use the information to impersonate you.
- Avoid making online payments while connected to an unsecured public WiFi network (one where you don’t have to put in a password). Using unsecured networks makes it really easy for hackers to capture your account and login information, and steal your money.
By Camilla Chafer