Staying Safe Online


The news is rife with stories of email scams, bogus websites, viruses and other dangers we are likely to encounter online. As the internet evolves so too does online criminality, thus the need to be conversant with the basics of online security and safety. The first thing to consider is that behind every webpage and email there are human beings with motives. The motives are simply either good or bad. Separating the good from the bad is the key to not getting scorched by scammers and hackers. A scammer hides behind the screen and tries to gain your trust with words and images. If the same person where to stand in front of you and proposition you with an amazing, unbelievable deal, a request for money or a request for your personal details, you would tell them where to go pretty quickly. So why fall for it because it’s on your screen? So, rule number one is, talk to your computer, read those dodgy emails out loud and you’ll probably laugh at how ludicrous they actually are. Check the sender’s email address and if it looks odd in any way bin it. If someone wants your password, don’t tell them, it is for your use nobody else’s.
Once you get used to the talking bit, the next thing is trustworthiness. Scammers and hackers need you to believe them in order for them to have their wicked way. So, while talking to the screen, ask yourself if you trust what you are reading. Even if you are slightly in doubt, apply rule number two which is validation. Cross check and verify anything and everything. Most likely, someone else would have smelt a rat and then grassed on a forum or blog. If you’re the first to smell the rat, tell people about it! Check for names, dates, phone numbers, locations, reviews, similar product prices, similar costs, social network links, the lot.
Don’t be greedy. Or naive. If a pop us says “You are 1 trillionth visitor to a website, Click here to claim your prize”, you should find a way to leave that page quickly and quietly (no talking required) . Hackers and viruses need a way into your world. Email links and pop ups are old favourites but when you actually download dodgy stuff it’s like giving them the back door key to your home and then going on holiday. By the time you get back not only will they have taken what they need, they’ll also leave behind software to track and record your every click and keystroke in the future.
In order to protect your computer from harm, keep your operating system up to date (as well as any other software that you use) and backup important files to an external device regularly. Anti-virus applications are useful but you only need one. Make sure your firewall is on. Email filters will help you put things in the spam box but they are far from perfect. Talk to your inbox and then bin any unsolicited mail without opening it. From dodgy websites you get dodgy stuff. The best software in the world will not protect you if you go looking for trouble. Stay Safe!

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