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Safer Internet Day - A Guide to Staying Safe Online


Following the unprecedented events of 2020 and the “lockdown” start to 2021, our online consumption has rocketed. If it’s not working from home, home schooling and online learning, zoom dates, quizzes and virtual meetups replacing coffee catch ups and nights out, it is the often excessive browsing across social media channels.

In 2020 social media users have increased by 10% with a recorded total of 3.96 billion worldwide users actively using social media. Additionally, online shopping has rapidly replaced the weekly run to do the groceries, replenish the wardrobe and stock up on the essentials and non-essentials. All of which requires the internet and if we thought before March 2020 that we could not live without it, we certainly could not now!

As today is national Safer Internet Day we recognise the powerful tool the internet is but also wish highlight the importance of being careful while online. We have provided some tips and reminders on how everyone can improve their online safety, whatever the purpose of their browsing. 

Working from home

Use strong and secure passwords.
As mentioned previously it is vital passwords are regularly updated and created as securely as possible. Strong passwords are harder for hackers to break; therefore, this is why you will always be prompted to make sure passwords are made up of up to 12 characters with letters, numbers and symbols. Also try avoiding using the same password for multiple accounts.
Make sure your WIFI is secured.

Today the majority of us will have secured Wi-Fi connections, this simply means you have password protection for anyone looking to join your network. You can also change your SSID, this is the name of your Wi-Fi connection, do not use your family name, address or anything that can easily identify you/ your home.

Keep antivirus up to date.
Antivirus software is one of easiest and most common method used to keep safe online in particular your equipment but it also helps reduce your exposure to strange activity. Therefore, taking the hard work away from you, antivirus software will automatically scan your computer / laptops, reducing threats of hacking or fraudulent behaviours.

Your work IT dept will make sure the latest version of antivirus is installed on your computer / laptop. This is vital you remember to update this when prompted.

Be careful with downloads.
Make sure to carefully read the information disclosed when downloading programmes and software. If your company has an IT department, ensure you check any downloads with them before downloading anything new. It is often said think before you click, and this also applies to downloads.

Look out for SPAM emails.
As we communicate a lot more with our colleagues via email, we must be sure we keep on top of emails arriving into our inboxes and pay attention to any that appear fraudulent. If you suspect an email may not be from the recipient it claims to be, do not open or click on anything. Notify your IT department who will investigate it further and advise on next steps.

Use centralised storage solutions.
When in the office we would have been connected to one network and a centralised server, where all your work and documents were saved. This may still be the case as you work from home. But if your work servers are not able to be accessed remotely, it is advisable to adapt by using other centralised storage solutions such as One Drive or Drop box to name a few. This will help protect your documents and reduce the chance of losing documents should something happen to your hardware.

Be careful with your personal social media channels.
Most of us are probably active on some form of social media channels and now in Lockdown 3.0 our usage has most likely increased as we stay connected with friends, family and even colleagues. 43% of social media users admitted they spent more time on their social media accounts during the pandemic. In 2020 the average global user reportedly spent 2 hours 29 minutes on social media and apps every day. Compared to the UK users total of 1 hour and 50 minutes in 2019. It is always advised to be careful with what you post on your channels especially when associated with a company brand. Most companies will have policies and conduct of social media usage in place that must be adhered to by all employees. In addition to this, it is a welcomed reminder to always be mindful what you disclose and say online.

Minors usage of the internet / home schooling

Supervise their online time and keep it limited.
Now we are spending more time at home and children are likely to use online devices and the internet a lot more, especially for online learning. It is extremely important to ensure children are supervised as best possible when online. It is recommended parents keep devices and screens in easy to view areas to ‘monitor’ usage. Another method can be to limit children’s usage to evenings and weekends, particularly if parents are working from home.

Set Parental controls within settings and on devices.
You can never be too careful especially when it comes to children ‘browsing’ online. It is recommended as parents you take control and monitor / limit what children can gain access to. Setting parental controls can avoid children stumbling across websites not appropriate for their ages but also password protecting app stores can help reduce such behaviour.
Not to mention to try and help avoid unnecessary app store payments should paid for apps become downloaded by mistake.

Openly talk to your children about the importance and dangers of being online.
Having that open conversation with children to highlight the importance of acting safe when online without causing fear is recommended. If you are able to openly give them some examples of what dangers can arise is a good way to try ensure they are not off exploring website they should not be on. Additionally, it is just as important to make sure they never share their passwords, photos, address or other personal details with anyone online regardless of who they say they are. Remind them to ask an adult about anything they are unsure of.

Shopping Online

Regularly update passwords and use strong passwords.
We know it can be frustrating trying to create and remember passwords, but it vital you keep updating passwords. It is also important to create strong passwords. You may think your passwords are strong, but a strong password is made up on up to 12 characters consisting of letters, numbers and symbols.

Only purchase from familiar reliable sites.
Now living in a very technically advanced world where target advertising and marketing is very active. You may have recognised if you once searched for a certain item you are now being targeted with similar products and websites; some brands you may have heard of others maybe entirely new. In this case it is always recommend you research the brand, look for reviews if possible, check out the website, read the company policies and returns system before you make a purchase. You do not want to become victim to online fraud. Ensure websites are secure by checking the address bar, https indicates a secure connection. If there is no ‘s’ after the http, it may not be a secure site, as such any data entered could be compromised.

Use credit cards as a payment if you can.
If you can use a credit card as a payment method it is recommended, particularly when purchasing high valued products. Some visa company’s automatically grant added support for pricing protection, purchase protection and warranty protection which basically means by using a credit card it could be a lot easier to dispute payments / orders.

Be aware of spam emails dropping into your inbox.
Due to the current COVID-19 environment we are all likely to be more dependent on online shopping than ever before. With this said you may receive a lot more sales and marketing emails, a lot will be purely marketing purposes only but there can be occasions SPAM emails fall into your inbox. If the offer seems too good to be true it probably is.

We hope these tips allow you to continue to stay safe online and recommend you share any tips with your family, friends and colleagues.