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Be Safe on the Internet

According to new research, more than half of us fall victim to cybercrime. Follow the twenty dos and don’ts of online safety taken from the Observer newspaper to keep yourself safe –

1. Never click on a link you did not expect to receive - The main way criminals infect PCs with malware is by luring users to click on a link or open an attachment. Targeted attacks and well-executed mass mailings can be almost indistinguishable from genuine emails.

2. Use different passwords on different sites -Have one memorable phrase or a line from a favourite song or poem. For example: "The Observer is a Sunday newspaper" becomes "toiasn". Add numerals and a special character thus:”T0!asn”– for every site you log on to, add the first and last letter of that site to the start and end of the phrase, so the password for Amazon would be "AT0!asnn"

3. Never reuse your main email password -A hacker who has cracked your main email password has the keys to your kingdom. Passwords from the other sites you visit can be reset via your main email account.

4. Use anti-virus software - A study of 42 packages showed on average a 25% detection rate of malware – so they are not the entire answer, just a useful part of it.

5. If in doubt, block -Just say no to social media invitations (such as Facebook-friend or LinkedIn connection requests) from people you don't know. It's the cyber equivalent of inviting the twitchy guy who looks at you at the bus stop into your home.

6. Think before you tweet and how you share information - The principal risk is ID fraud. If you aren't willing to stand at Hyde Park Corner and say it, don't put it on social media.

7. If you have a "wipe your phone" feature, you should set it up - Features such as Find My iPhone, Android Lost or BlackBerry Protect allow you to remotely to erase all your personal data, should your device be lost or stolen. 

8. Only shop online on secure sites -Before entering your card details, always ensure that the locked padlock or unbroken key symbol is showing in your browser. Be wary of sites that change back to http once you've logged on.

9. Don't assume banks will pay you back -The matter is always determined on an individual basis. "Anecdotally, a customer who has been a victim of a phishing scam by unwittingly providing a fraudster with their account details and passwords only to be later defrauded could be refunded," "However, were they to fall victim to the same fraud in the future, after their bank had educated them about how to stay safe, it is possible a subsequent refund won't be so straightforward.

10. Ignore pop-ups -Pop-ups can contain malicious software which can trick a user into verifying something. But a download can be performed in the background, which will install malware.

11. Be wary of public Wi-Fi - Most Wi-Fi hotspots do not encrypt information and once a piece of data leaves your device headed for a web destination, it is unencrypted as it transfers through the air on the wireless network. That means any 'packet sniffer' [a program which can intercept data] or malicious individual who is sitting in a public destination with a piece of software that searches for data being transferred on a Wi-Fi network can intercept your unencrypted data.

12. Run more than one email account - Think about having one for your bank and other financial accounts, another for shopping and one for social networks. If one account is hacked, you won't find everything compromised.

13. Macs are as vulnerable as PCs - Your shiny new MacBook Air can be attacked too. It's true that Macs used to be less of a target and Apple and Microsoft have both added a number of security features which have significantly increased the effectiveness of security on their software,but determined attackers are still able to find new ways to exploit users on almost any platform.

14. Don't store your card details on websites -Err on the side of caution when asked if you want to store your credit card details for future use. The extra 90 seconds it takes to key in your details each time is a small price to pay.

15. Add a DNS service to protect other devices - A DNS or domain name system service converts a web address (a series of letters) into a machine-readable IP address (a series of numbers). You're probably using your ISP's DNS service by default, but you can opt to subscribe to a service such as OpenDNS or Norton ConnectSafe, which redirect you if you attempt to access a malicious site.

16. Enable two-step verification - If your email or cloud service offers it – Gmail, Dropbox, Apple and Facebookdo – take the trouble to set this up. In addition to entering your password, you are also asked to enter a verification code sent via SMS to your phone.

17. Lock your phone and tablet devices - Keep it locked, just as you would your front door. Keying in a password or code 40-plus times a day might seem like a hassle but, it’s your first line of defence.

18. Be careful on auction sites - Exercise vigilance. Check the seller feedback and if a deal looks too good then it may well be. Keep your online payment accounts secure by regularly changing your passwords, checking the bank account to which it is linked and consider having a separate bank account or credit card for use on them, to limit any potential fraud still further.

19. Lock down your Facebook account -Facebook regularly updates its timeline and privacy settings, so it is wise to monitor your profile, particularly if the design of Facebook has changed.

20. Remember you're human after all - While much of the above are technical solutions to prevent you being hacked and scammed, hacking done well is really the skill of tricking human beings, not computers, by preying on their gullibility, taking advantage of our trust, greed or altruistic impulses. Human error is still the most likely reason why you'll get hacked.

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