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Everyone, it seems, 'lives' on the internet these days, with many people virtually 'glued' to their phones - staring at them even while walking down the street! But, are you safe online - and, more importantly, how safe are you walking along not watching where you're going? Why DO people stare at their phones while walking, or use earphones while cycling, it's SOOO dangerous!
OK, rant over, but what can you trust online and what is safe to share? Whatever you use the Internet for and however you access it, security should always be your top priority, as if it isn't, you could lose a lot more than your just online image - you could lose all of your Personal DataYour Personal Data is everything on your device that is personal to you; your photos, videos, scans, documents, email and any other personal information, like bank account details, passwords etc, though of course, you shouldn't be storing these on your device!
Click here to go to the Personal Data page
on your device, maybe the use of it too, the cash in your bank account(s), your Personal IdentityYour Personal Identity is what identifies you as 'you'. If another person gets hold of this, they could potentially open bank accounts, credit cards etc. in your name, or change your registered details (address, passwords etc.) with banks etc.
Click here to go to the Personal Identity page,
and so, so, much more.
Despite regular news items about ransomware, website attacks, leaked email addresses & user information and too much personal information being shared on social media, online security is still something that very few people pay anywhere near enough attention to. We can help you put that right!
We provide you with the tools and information - in plain English - that you need to understand and address this and to be able to use the web and email safely. Unfortunately, nothing can keep you totally safe online, any more than you can be totally safe in the real world, but we will give you the tools and understanding you need in order to keep yourself and your personal data as safe as possible and, hopefully, help make you feel a whole lot safer online too! We also help you understand the technical jargon, with our Glossary & pop-out explanations like This!Useful pop-outs to help explain technical jargon, acronyms and phrases
For even more jargon-busters, Click here to go to the our Glossary page
To be safe on the web, you need to be aware of how to set up and use your Device (PC, Laptop, Tablet, or Mobile Phone) on lots of different levels and understanding these levels and having a good knowledge of what to do and what not to do on - and off - the web are the first steps in getting that right. We list the essentials of how to implement and access a safe environment when using the internet, regardless of what device you are using. You can work you way through these steps methodically, or start anywhere you like and tackle the ones you think you need to address first, but most important - and easiest - is having an 'aware' attitude of what to do and, more importantly, what NOT to do when online. When are you 'online'? Well, any time you are using a device that is connected to the internet, regardless of what you are doing, so, it's best to always be web aware!
Below are some quick-check tips and hints for checking and securing your internet access and ensuring you stay safe online. For more detailed information on each item, click on the individual main page link in that section.
BUT, before that, or before doing ANYTHING else, BACKUP your Personal DataYour Personal Data is everything on your device that is personal to you; your photos, videos, scans, documents, email and any other personal information, like bank account details, passwords etc, though of course, you shouldn't be storing these on your device!
Click here to go to the Personal Data page
first! We cannot stress enough just how important this is. Despite that fact that devices are much more reliable now than ever before, there are many instances where you can lose your Personal Data, or just lose access to it. What would you do if your phone was stolen or lost, or if you just dropped it and the screen broke and/or your touch-sceen function no longer worked? How would you get to and protect your personal data then? Go to our Mobiles Page for help on this particular problem.
The exact details of how to use the web safely, will of course, depend on what device and operating system you're using and there are now a bewildering number of devices and ways to access the internet. Long gone are the days of everyone using a home PC, or Laptop/Notebook computer. Many people now regularity access the internet using a Mobile Phone or Tablet as their primary device and only use a PC or Laptop occasionally. With this variety of devices, comes the inevitable variety of Operating Systems and other Software, which depends on the hardware and the manufacturer. For mobile phones alone, there are three main systems; iOS (Apple), Android (Google, Samsung, Sony, etc.) and Windows Mobile (Microsoft: still around, but no longer being manufactured). If you are using one of these devices, please see our other pages from the top menu that address the issues arising with these devices.
Regardless of the device you're using though, if you access the internet at home, there's a good chance that you will be connecting to the internet through a standard router via Wi-Fi (wireless), or via an Ethernet cable. Wi-Fi, as I'm sure everyone knows, is the word commonly used to describe a wireless connection to the internet through a home router, or a publicly provided internet connection in a shop, bar, airport, etc.. Technically, it is a very low power microwave signal with a range of up to something like 100 metres, depending very much on the make and model of the router and the local conditions (whether it is indoors or outdoors and whether it has to pass through one or more walls etc.). The word Wi-Fi is a mixture of the words 'wireless' (which was used many years ago to mean a Radio, and is actually a far more accurate description for Wi-Fi) and Hi-Fi, the old word for 'High Fidelity' (high quality) audio. Put together, the word Wi-Fi means a 'high quality wireless connection'!
To use the internet, or to access email safely, it is important for you to have protection against other people hacking (connecting without your permission) into your device and malware (software that tries to do harm [from the French 'mal', meaning 'bad'], including 'viruses' & 'spyware', etc.). For this, you will need a 'firewall', plus 'anti-virus' and 'anti-spyware' software as a minimum. Most important of all however, is having an 'aware' attitude to using any device, tool and software that accesses the internet. This applies especially to email clients and web browsers (there are other ways, such as Telnet, SSH. FTP &; TOR, etc.). At a very basic level, always be aware of what you are doing and be sure you know enough to keep safe. To make that a lot easier, we'll break it down into more manageable chunks:
Firstly, what are the risks when using the internet - what do you need to protect yourself against? Most people asked this would probably say 'viruses', but 'antivirus' protection is simply the common phrase for what should be called anti-malware, i.e., software that protects from any program that is trying to cause harm to your system, or your data. Malware actually covers a lot more than viruses, such as spyware, worms, rootkits, ransomware, etc.. This is not a complete list, but it does give you an idea of how extensive the threat is and how serious you should take it. From now on, we'll just call it Malware. For the best protection, what you need is an Internet Security Suite that covers all of the threats, though a lot of these programs still simply call themselves 'AntiVirus', so check carefully what your chosen protection software actually covers before you install and rely on it! You may need to use more than one, but be very careful, as anti-malware programs can clash and cause even more problems and they can be resource hungry, slowing your device, or even bringing it to a grinding halt, so it's not usually advisable - but it can be a good idea if you choose your software carefully!
For Malware protection, a lot of people naturally go to the big players in the internet security market, for what they think is the only necessary protection they need. However, the big companies are not necessarily the best ones to go for. Their software is often overly bloated (larger and more complicated than it needs to be), which is therefore slow to use and can slow your PC/laptop down a lot too! A better bet is to use one of the less known, but more efficient alternatives, like Vipre or SuperAntiSpyware. These are fast and focused internet security suites that keep you free from malware, while leaving your PC to perform as it should. There are many others and all have their own benefits and downsides and different interfaces and ways of working. What suits one person, will not necessarily suit someone else.
There are also plenty of perfectly good free alternatives and a quick - but safe! - internet search will bring up lots. Do be careful though, not everything you find on the web is what it says it is - or free when it says it's free - which is why you need anti-malware software in the first place! Again, for different operating systems, you will likely need (and find available), different anti-malware software, though many of the big Security Suites are available for most Operating Systems. For Windows, there is always the standard Microsoft built in anti-malware programs, Windows Defender (Windows 10) which is an update to Microsoft Security Essentials, which is no longer available.
A Firewall can be just software (a program), or hardware (a physical item) that allows, or blocks software access between your device and another location or device on the internet, depending on what/who is trying to get in or out! Most Internet Security Suites include a good firewall. This is just software that runs on your device and generally does not need anything other that the most basic setting up, but you can also buy more complicated firewall software and also hardware firewalls that provide better protection. A hardware firewall is basically just a small computing device that runs more complicated firewall software, with lots of configurations and options, designed for people who need or want better protection; usually people or companies that have a lot more to protect than just the average personal information on their device(s), or are just more security conscious. Your broadband router, if you have one, will almost certainly have a built-in firewall, so it's worth checking out the options available on it and keeping its software/firmware up to date. Check out the information in your user handbook, or contact your Service Provider.
If you're not confident enough, or unsure how to go about installing Security Software yourself, or your device is already infected, or if it's very slow for no obvious reason, you may need help. If you have a knowledgeable friend, or know a reputable company that you can trust to do it for you, that's great, but we would highly recommend you learning how to do such things for yourself and you will find help on how to do these things elsewhere on our website. Either way, if you have a problem, or don't have any malware protection, you really need to sort it out quickly - before someone helps themselves to the contents of your PC - and most likely your Bank Account(s) too!
Before you do anything though, stop and think carefully, as often with computers and other such devices, there is no going back and undoing what you have done. If you delete your data by accident, you may not be able to get it back. Sure, Google and Apple etc. are great at backing up your basic phone account, contacts, apps., and some settings, but there are limitations to what you can get back. With PCs and Laptops, it's usually gone for good, unless it's in your Recycle Bin. Viruses, RansomWare and other malware doesn't send data to your recycle bin, it just steals it, deletes it, or scrambles (encodes) it, meaning it's most likely lost forever. Do NOT, whatever you do, pay to get your device 'unlocked', you almost certainly won't get it or your data back, but you almost certainly WILL lose even more money - maybe everything you've got!
Backup
        Backup (main page)
Backup. Exactly what does that mean? Well, it means having (creating) recent copies of all of your personal data stored externally and separate from your device. And the important words here are 'Personal Data', 'Externally' and 'Separate'. Yes, it's a good idea to keep an Operating System install or restore disk, USB drive, or system restore file and the same goes for any major programs (Office for instance, or any others that you have paid for), but that's not going to help you much if you lose your mobile phone, or your laptop goes up in smoke, or your hard drive fails! What's really important is your Personal Data - anything that you, your friends, or family have created, obtained, or sent; photos, documents, work files, emails, that sort of thing.
The objective here, is to enable you to access all of your personal data again and get back to where you are now if the worst should happen and your laptop, phone or other device is lost, stolen, goes up in smoke, or just fails in a big way. How would you do that if one of those things happened now, if you had to replace your device with a new one, without the old one to copy everything over from? How would you cope? Would you lose important, irreplaceable photos etc, forever? Would your business survive?
I say External and Separate, because in the case of a virus, ransomware, fire, theft, etc., you need access to a backup that does not rely on the original device, or one that is, or was, connected to it, or in some cases, in the same building, property or vehicle. If it's permanently, or regularly connected, via USB, Ethernet, or even Wi-Fi on your local network, then it too is extremely vulnerable, especially to viruses and ransomware! What's more, you should have more than one backup, ideally in different physical locations! Just think, what would you do if all of your data was lost tomorrow, or even today? There is no way of knowing if or when something may happen, but it's more than likely to be 'when', than 'if'. BACKUP NOW; to CD/DVD, external hard drive, USB stick, SD card, or the 'cloud', preferable to at least two different types of media and/or locations. This is extremely important and a very big subject. Don't wait until it's too late! Please go to our main Backup Page for more information.
Be Web Aware!
        Be Web Aware (main page)
This is arguably the most important part - the way you interact with your device and it's software. The most important, as far as we are concerned, is email and, more recently, text messages. The trick is learning how to recognise which of these is unsafe and what to do with them. To stay safe online, regardless of the device you're using, or your current set-up - especially if you have not yet implemented the suggestions found on this site, or elsewhere - you need to be aware of the pitfalls and traps that are likely to trip you up.
These are the thing you should NOT do:
  1. Respond to a pop-up that tells you that your PC/Laptop is infected and to 'click here' to fix the problems, even if you're absolutely SURE it's from your already-installed Internet Security software; close the pop-up and start the software yourself and ONLY THEN respond to any notices it shows!
  2. Pay to download software to fix problems, or to 'release' your data that has been corrupted or encrypted; it will almost certainly infect your device, and/or steal your data.
  3. Respond to anyone that phones you telling you that they're 'from Microsoft', 'Apple', or your phone company/internet supplier, bank, or other reputable company and that they have seen that 'your PC/laptop/tablet/phone/etc. is infected' or that your bank account is at risk and that they 'need access to your computer/device', or that they can fix this 'for a fee', or that you 'need to move your money' - just hang up on them, it's almost certainly a scam! Even if you have reported a problem and are expecting a call back, your supplier will almost never ask to access your device online! If they do call you, even if you think is is genuinely them, tell them you'll call them back at a later time, as scammers are very smart and may be monitoring your emails/texts/calls etc. and may jump in just when you're feeling secure. When you do call them, either use a different phone line or mobile, or after you have used your phone to contact somebody you know and you can be sure your line is clear and not being held open by the scammers!
These are ALL con tricks and will almost certainly result in your PC/Laptop etc. being infected, as well as costing you a lot of money and trouble, maybe everything you've got! NEVER respond to a phone call or pop-up, ONLY ever instigate your own fix, or find a trusted company yourself, one that has NOT already contacted you, using a trusted published number [NOT one you have been given over the phone], or go to a website that you already trust [via an existing bookmark, or found from a browser search result]). Remember, decent companies do not call touting for business! Check to see who you are calling and do research on them on web sites other than their own - look for independent reviews, recommendations and phone number listings or website links!
Also, never completely trust emails or text messages, even if they are responses to ones you have sent and are included in the same message sequence on your phone/laptop etc.. Scammers can easily send texts and emails to look exactly the same as if they are coming from a trusted, saved contact, friend, relative, or phone number and they can slot their scam message in with all of your other messages to/from that person or company. Be VERY cautions, especially if this involves sending money, important documents, personal information, or just letting someone know you'll be somewhere at a certain time (and therefore 'out'). Instead, contact them by another method, preferably phone, where you can be absolutely sure who you're talking to, before following up on the text or email instructions etc. For more info, go to our main Be Aware! Page
Physical
        Physical (main page)
By Physical, we mean your home layout and general home security. How your computers and other devices are laid out and where they are left, whether they can be seen through your windows and how easy or difficult it is to get into your property. This is the very starting point. Without this being right, all of your devices, as well as your other property and personal information is at risk, plus any passwords etc. that you may have written down, physically, or on your devices. Have a look at your layout and check to see what other people can see through your windows, doors, and postbox etc. and whether things could be better arranged. Even simple things like not leaving documents with personal details anywhere near windows, or anything on view that might tempt someone to break in, like a wallet or mobile phone. There is much more to it than you might initially think, for more info, go to our main Physical Page
Internet Service Provider
        Internet Service Provider (main page)
Who your Internet Service Provider is will have an effect your online security, as different providers have different rules and policies. The Router, if you use one, will depend on who you are with, as will it's built-in security software and firewall. Check with your provider account to see if you are automatically signed up to their security program, such as Child Protection etc., which will likely block certain sites, such as adult themed and violence sites. There will likely also be a 'White List' and a 'Black List'. Here, you will be able to add sites that you want to be able to access to your White List and sites you want to be blocked to your Black List and possibly restrict internet access hours. For more info, go to our main Internet Service Provider Page
Hardware
        Hardware (main page)
Hardware is a fairly obvious description and, you might think that there isn't much you can do about changing or upgrading it, and, as far as phones and tablets go, you'd pretty much be right, but Windows PCs and even laptops can be upgrade in many ways. But even if you don't want to update your PC, laptop or phone, you might find you have to in order to keep your operating system up to date and secure, as older systems often do not support newer operating systems, such as Window 10 etc., or later versions of Android or iOS on a phone or tablet. If your Operating System is several years old and you can't update to the latest OS, you may be at risk, so check to see which version you are running, what differences there are between yours and the latest and what date yours is supported until by the manufacturer (see Operating Systems for more details).
As well as this, make sure your other hardware is up to date, software and firmware wise! Your router may well have been supplied by your Internet Service Provider, but you need to check that the firmware (the built-in software that runs on it) is up to date. On some routers, this is updated automatically, but many aren't and it's a good idea to check with your service provider, or do a search online, to see if there is a (genuine) software update for it and also to back up your configuration, just in case anything goes wrong - back this up before attempting to update the firmware! There are more things you can do regarding upgrading your hardware and it's firmware though, for more info, go to our main Hardware page.
Internet Connection
        Internet Connecion (main page)
Your Internet Connection is the method of delivery for your Internet services to your home (cable, fibre, satellite, phone data) by your Service Provider (BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin, etc.), plus the connection (Ethernet cable, Wi-Fi) between your router (if you have one) and your device - many people are ditching the traditional phone line nowadays and relying solely on their mobile!
There are various option here, but they are more to do with speed, rather than security, unless that is, you choose to install a hardware firewall, or use a VPN. If you use Ethernet cables, you can upgrade your wall socket and cables, but this is only worth it if your broadband supply is fast enough in the first place. If you use Wi-Fi, you can optimise the speed by using the later, faster, protocols/bands, depending on your device's support for these. More than one protocol/band can often be used at once, but it will depend on the router you have and the support for these on your devices.
To make sure you'e getting the best out of whatever configuration you are using, regularly check your internet download speed and check and adjust your Wi-Fi frequency channel to ensure you are not clashing with you neighbours. You can download a free app. for your phone to check the frequencies that are in use near to you, then adjust the frequency on your router so that it sits between the frequencies of your neighbours. The main security options are within the Router itself, as listed above. For more info, go to our main Internet Connection page.
Operating Systems
        Operating Systems (main page)
Your Operating System (OS) is the software that runs your device, such as Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, etc.. It's not the only software running your device, there is also lower level software such as the BIOS or Bootloader, plus many other mini sub-systems, or 'services', but your OS is the main software on your system and is what you see and use, apart from the individual Programs or Apps., such as Word, Outlook, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Skype, etc.. What you actually see and interact with, is simply called your User Interface, or UI.
Keeping your OS up to date is critical to the security of your device; you need to ensure it is configured to keep itself updated automatically, if you can, or that you check and update it very regularly. In fact, you need to use your device regularly just to keep it up to date, so if you're only an occasional user of your PC or Laptop, it's a good idea to power it up regularly just to update it, otherwise you will fall behind and, if this happens, even for a fairly short time, you could be very much at risk from malware - Viruses, Spyware, 'Ransomware' etc. - when you DO go to use it, which you will undoubtably have seen happening on outdated systems on the news in recent years, like the NHS computers STILL running Windows XP -but you don't need to be this far out of date to be at risk!
Ransomware deliberately encodes (or 'scrambles') your data, making it impossible for you to access it and then demands that you pay a ransom in order to get it back. Whatever you do, DON'T pay! If you do pay this fee, or ransom, not only are you very unlikely to get your data back, but the fact that you have paid actually makes you far more vulnerable to being infected again, and quite likely that you'll have even more money taken from your credit card or bank account (if used to pay) than you actually authorised. You also risk having your personal identity being stolen - if it hasn't already been that is- which can be extremely expensive, disturbing and even life-changing. For more information on keeping your operating system up to date, go to our main Operating Systems page.
Software Suites
        Security Suites (main page)
The Security Software that you choose for you device is extremely important, not only for the security of your data, but also for the performance of your device. There are many different suppliers to choose from, from simple anti-virus programs to full-on anti-virus/spyware and firewall suites. Many people go for one of the big names, such as Norton/Symantic, Kaspersky, McAfee, Panda and the like, but there are lots more and some very good free ones too!
Vipre is one the 'lighter' ones that provides excellent protection, while not excessively slowing your system down. There are free options from Comodo, Microsoft, McAfee and Avira, to name just a few, but be careful, as some of these 'free' options are actually only temporary 'trials' and will expire after an initial 30-60 days or so if you do not pay to 'upgrade' to the full package! There are also some very good specialist suppliers which specialise in removing difficult malware, such as SuperAntiSpyware and MalwareBytes. For a full run-down on some of these, please go to our main Security Suites page.
Browsers
        Browsers (main page)
The Browser you use may be the default that came with your system, such as Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer, Apple's Safari, or Android's Browser, but it doesn't have to be the one you use; you have a choice! Especially on Windows and Android devices, there are lots of options, including Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Comdodo Dragon, Tor and many more. The same goes for the Search Engine you use (Google, Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, etc.), which is not the same thing; try mixing and matching!
Apple devices can use many of the same browsers and a few others, such as Torch. If you're a Linux user, there are plenty too - though you probably know this already! The choice you make as to which browser and search engine you use will effect how safe you are online, though how you use it makes a big difference too - see our Be Web Aware Page. See our Browsers main page for a review on the different Browser options for your device, how to configure them and how to use them safely.

Email
        Email (main page)
An Email Client is the program you use on your device to access your email. Generally speaking, it refers to programs that download your messages to your device, such as Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, or Opera Mail for Windows, or Apple Mail, or Polymail for the Apple Mac. The other option is to use web-based mail, which allows you to view your email direct on a website, but does not download the messages to your device, so they are not available if you are not online. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. For more info, go to our Email main page.
Personal ID & Data
        Personal ID & Data (main page)
Look after your Person ID and your Personal Data. To do this, you need to have a good understanding of what these are.
See Personal Security main page for our guide on your Personal ID and Data.

Other Software (Tools & Utilities)
        Other Software (main page)
As well as all of the above, it is also very important to keep your other software up to date. As well as your major programs, such as Office, Word (or alternatives), you should regularly update, or even better, set to update automatically thing like Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, Java (if used) and any Utility programs you use, such as Advanced System Care, Wise Registry Cleaner, CCleaner, SmartDefrag, etc.. See our Tools & Utilities page for details of these and many other useful tools and utilities and how to use them.

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This page was last updated on 29th June 2020.
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