The internet has become the most popular means of communication for young people, it is inexpensive and people can keep in touch with friends and family as well as make new friends. While the internet may be useful in our everyday lives, there are also many risks that occur.
When you use the internet you may be connected to thousands of other computers that you are exchanging information and data with, including personal details. It is important to make sure your computer, your information and your privacy are as secure as possible.
Viruses are destructive software that can run on your computer without you knowing. They spread through the internet and emails by copying themselves to documents and programs on your computer. Viruses can cause damage by deleting files and can allow criminals to monitor your computer and steal personal information. They can slow down your computer and take days to remove.
Spy-ware is software that’s often downloaded with other software, like music sharing software. It can allow criminals to scan your computer for information stored on it, install pop up advertisements, and let viruses through.
A botnet is a network of virus-infected computers that are used together and can be remotely controlled. The attacker can then have access to the computers and use them for malicious activities like sending spam. All this can be done without the users of the computer knowing what is happening.
Security measures you can take
Using the most up-to-date version of your operating system – Your operating system is the main piece of software controlling your computer. Some common systems in use are Microsoft Windows, Macintosh OS and Linux. Most new computers come with this software installed. The most recent version of the software is usually the most secure. Updates are usually available from the software manufacturer, and are free to download.
Make sure you have a desktop firewall in place – A firewall is software or hardware that acts as a filter between your computer or network and the internet. Using a firewall prevents unauthorised access to your computer and is designed to stop worms (another type of malicious software). Desktop firewalls for individual computers are available in high street shops. Some operating systems have built-in firewalls but it’s best to check with the manufacturer and find out if it provides adequate protection.
Using up-to-date antivirus software – Antivirus software will check your computer for viruses and alerts you of any it recognises. It’s important to keep this software up to date, as new viruses are being created all the time.
Use strong passwords
Many websites use passwords to protect your identity. If passwords get into the wrong hands or are easy to guess, your personal details will be easily accessible.
Good passwords should:
- never be shared – including with helpline staff, written down or observed
- be at least seven characters long
- be a mixture of lower and upper case letters, numbers and other keyboard characters
- changed regularly – every three months is good guide
- not be the same on all the sites you use
Scams and identity fraud
These days many of us find buying and selling online very convenient, it can be just as safe as ordering goods over the phone. Always remember to keep the address and the phone number of the company and check that the phone number given works.
- Use secure websites usually with website that have ‘https’ in front and check the companys privacy and returns policy,if in any doubt, you can check a company is genuine by looking them up on Companies House or the Financial Services Authority websites if they are they will be registered. Make sure that the website uses a secure payment process.
- Do not pay money into individual accounts.
- Print out and keep your payment slip and check it against your bank statement.
If you paid for an item and did not receive it or it doesn’t match it’s original discription then you have been a victim of fraud. It is important to report this in order to stop this happening to other people. When banking online make sure you keep your log in details safe and always log off after checking your account.
Identity fraud- is when personal details like your address, passport number and National Insurance number are stolen they can be used to set up online accounts, apply for credit cards and even apply for benefits in your name without you knowing.
Some common scams include:
- ‘Phishing’ (pronounced ‘fishing’) – you receive an email that looks as if it comes from a bank or credit card company asking you to submit personal details of your account; these are used to transfere money from your account or to steal your identity
- ‘Share scams’ – when someone tries to sell you shares in companies that do not exist.
- ‘Fund transfer scams’ – an advert or email asks you to receive a payment into your bank account, then send it overseas.
- ‘Advanced fee scams’ – you get a letter, email or phone call offering you a large sum of money if you can help someone transfer millions of pounds out of their country; you’re asked to send details of your bank account and an administration fee to initiate the transaction
- ‘Identity fraud’ – someone impersonates you without your knowledge or consent, or uses your personal information in order to obtain money, goods or services
- Fake websites – eg masquerading as banks or internet auction sites
Interacting online and through mobile phones
Many of us interact with friends and family online. It is possible to make new friends as well. It is very important to ensure that you keep safe when interacting with other people online. Many of us have social networking accounts where we share pictures with friends. These can also be abused by other people. As with most potential online dangers, the problems can start if you don’t look after your personal information properly. The risks you need to be aware of are:
- Cyberbullying (bullying using digital technology)
- Invasion of privacy
- Identity theft
- The presence of strangers who may be there to ‘groom’ other members
The following guidelines will help you stay safe on social networking sites:
- Make sure that you don’t publish personal information like their physical address, email address, phone number or date of birth
- Be very careful about what images and messages you post, even among trusted friends – once they are online they can be shared widely and are extremely difficult to get removed
- Talk to someone if you something find offensive or upsetting
- Keep a record of anything abusive or offensive received and report any trouble to the site management (most sites have a simple reporting procedure, normally activated by clicking on a link on the page)
- Make sure you aware that publishing or sharing anything which would mean breaking a copyright agreement is illegal
- If you make an online friend and want to meet up with them in real life, take a friend and always meet in public. DO NOT ACCEPT A LIFT from someone you have just met.
- Be aware of online scams – offers which seem too good to be true usually are
- If you suspect someone may be grooming you or a friend on a social networking site, tell the police.
Sexting is when someone takes an indecent image of themselves and sends it to their friends or boy / girlfriends by mobile phone.
Once taken and sent, the sender has lost control of these images, which could end up anywhere. They could be seen by the persons future employers, their friends or even by paedophiles. By having indecent images of a person under 18, or sending them on to someone else, they could be breaking the law, as these are offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.