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Guest blog - Steer clear of harm on Safer Internet Day

Dorset Police Cyber Protect Officer Chris Conroy returns on Safer Internet Day with some simple tips to keep the cyber crooks at bay.

Today is Safer Internet Day – a day where we come together around the world, in the name of a better internet.

After all, the internet is an incredible tool. Our increasingly connected lives afford us flexibility and freedom, creativity and communication, helping people work from home, or bank on the go.

As we are all too aware though, putting it somewhat lightly, the internet is not without its flaws.

Cybercrime continues to cost the UK economy billions of pounds each year. The latest figures indicate £16.5m was lost in Dorset alone last year. As technology continues to develop, so too does the threat cybercrime poses. Luckily, however, the fundamentals of keeping ourselves safe online remain much the same.

Passwords         

The mistake most of us make with passwords is making them easily guessable. If you use information that can be readily found online, such as pets’ names, anniversaries or holiday locations, your password isn’t going to keep you safe for long. So, we need to make sure our passwords are up to the task.

  • Passwords should be long and complex – Special characters, capital letters, numbers… anything that adds a degree of complexity will help to make it more secure. However, length is also key. Mine are all somewhere between 15 and 25 characters long.
  • The National Cyber Security Centre recommend using three random words as the basis for a password. Let’s take dog, picnic and lampshade as an example. dogpicniclampshade. DogPicnicLampshade. D0gP1cn1cLamp5had3. See? Three random words and a few simple tweaks, and we’ve got a pretty good password right there.
  • Passwords should be unique. If I were to successfully steal your email password, for example, the first thing I’d do is try Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc in the hope it works there too. If you use one password across the board, your online life would be mine in minutes. Luckily, there are some solutions here.
  • Use a password manager. These are digital vaults that store passwords in an encrypted form. No one can access them besides you and, best of all, you never have to remember your passwords. You can just copy and paste them from your password manager of choice. Check out this helpful guide from Techradar.

Two factor authentication (2FA)

Think of 2FA as a safety net for your online accounts. Even if a cybercriminal swipes your password, they won’t be able to log in as they won’t have the second factor.

Using the most common form, when you enter your password to – for example – Facebook, you receive a six digit code to your phone. Enter the code, and you’re allowed to log in.

With this in place, a criminal can enter your password but won’t receive the code. So they remain out in the cold!

We cannot recommend 2FA strongly enough – go here for guides on how to use it on popular websites.

Antivirus

We all know we should have antivirus on our computers, but I’m willing to bet at least some of you don’t. Bearing in mind there are some great free variants out there, there is no excuse.

This article reviews some of the more popular offerings, giving you a breakdown of what you can expect.

The key thing with antivirus software is you need to keep it up to date. This is usually done automatically but it’s worth double checking to make sure. The last time I checked, there were something like 400,000 new pieces of malware released online EVERY DAY. Your antivirus can only keep you safe from the threats it knows about.

This is far from an exhaustive list of what we can do to keep ourselves safe but following these tips will put you in a much better place.

More info

There are some excellent free resources out there for people who want to find out more.

www.dorset.police.uk/cybercrime - We’ve got a website loaded with top tips for home and work, including our cyber crime prevention toolkit.

www.ncsc.gov.uk – The UK’s independent authority on cyber security. Full of useful resources for individuals, families and businesses of all sizes.

www.haveibeenpwned.com – This site allows you to check your email address against a huge database of breaches. If you have a hit, you know it’s time to change your password.

www.internetmatters.org – Internet Matters have a bunch of guides to help parents talk to their children about all matters online safety related.

www.beinternetawesome.withgoogle.com – This is a brilliant platform using interactive gameplay to teach kids about strong passwords, privacy, online bullying and more.

That’s probably enough for this year. If you want to find out more, visit www.saferinternetday.org, or follow the hashtag #SID2020.

As ever, feel free to get in touch! If you want to book a talk for a business or community group, please email us or go here for more information.

Until next time, stay safe out there.

Chris

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