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Cybercrime

By taking a few simple security measures and thinking carefully about what information you are putting online, the chances of becoming a victim of cybercrime can be dramatically reduced.

Mobile devices, apps, online streaming services and international gaming are now a part of everyday modern society.

Demand for quick time information, purchasing and instant online social activity is widespread across the globe – as is, unfortunately, the opportunity for cybercrime. More and more criminals are exploiting the speed, convenience and anonymity of the internet to commit a diverse range of criminal activity.

Cybercrime has many guises and much of it consists of traditional types of crime being committed – or partly committed – online, for example bullying and harassment, financial and identity fraud, sexual abuse and exploitation.

Security software

Familiarise yourselves with security software such as full security software packages which provide virus scans, firewall spam filtering and parental controls, plus anti-virus scanners and malware removal software which search your devices for infections and remove them.

Parental controls

Parental controls are key in keeping your family safe online. They are a quick and easy way of preventing children from accessing inappropriate sites on the internet and can be implemented in a number of different ways. See below for details of what is available and find step by step guides to setting them up by visiting Internet Matters.

  • Devices: pre-installed parental controls are available on most devices from laptops to tablets and smart phones. Although these won’t generally filter specific types of online content, they can restrict access to features and functions on the device.
  • Internet providers: internet providers have a host of parental controls which will limit and/or prevent access to inappropriate content. These do need to be set manually.
  • Gaming consoles and platforms: as with devices, gaming consoles offer parental controls so that your children can be protected whilst using them.
  • Entertainment and search engines: a large percentage of films and TV programmes are now watched online which means children are able to watch content wherever and whenever. Parental controls will not only help to keep them safe but will also restrict the type of content they can view.
  • Social media privacy: all popular social media platforms have different privacy and security settings so follow the guides to make sure you’re clued up and your children are protected.

Parental controls and having the right privacy settings can go a long way towards helping keep you and your family safe online, however it is vitally important that you speak to children and young people about their online activity. New apps and platforms are appearing all of the time and making sure you have a basic knowledge of how these work will help you understand any potential threats so you can talk to your children about them.

It is not just children and young people who fall victim to online exploitation, many adults do too. Having a good understanding of different apps, sites, devices and platforms you use will help keep you safe and your personal details secure.

Identity fraud

Identity fraud is also a significant threat to adults, with criminals piecing together personal and financial information from various websites and apps.

Make sure you check the validity of sites if you are purchasing items or booking holidays, never provide bank details via email if you are not one hundred percent sure of the receiver of your email, and always make sure you know who you are talking to online.

Passwords

One of the most common ways that people become victims of cybercrime is because criminals are able to use a victim’s password to gain access to their personal information. People use passwords that are very common (‘Password123’, ‘letmein’ and ”qwerty’ are still very popular), or that are easy to guess based on someone’s personal information (e.g. their pet’s name, name and year of birth etc.) Passwords that are short in length can also be quickly and easily guessed by computers that run password-cracking software – especially if the password just contains common words. It’s also quite common for most people to re-use the same password across many different online accounts.

Having separate passwords for separate accounts is an important part of protecting your data from criminals. Using a password manager makes this a lot easier and you can find more information from the National Cyber Security Centre.

Find out if your password has ever been in a data breach here: www.haveibeenpwned.com

Two factor authentication

Two-factor authentication (often shortened to 2FA) is a way to ‘double check’ you are the person you are claiming to be when using online services and accounts. This means that when you log in to an online service or account, you will be asked to provide a ‘second factor’ such as a code received by text message or an app.

This adds another layer of security as accounts set up to use 2FA will ask for another check so even if a criminal knows your password, they won’t be able to access your accounts. More information and a guide to setting up 2FA can be found from the National Cyber Security Centre.

Cyber security course

The Open University through partnership with the UK Government have designed a free web-based cyber security course which can help you gain knowledge and skills to protect your digital life. The Introduction to Cyber Security course does not assume any prior knowledge of computer security and can be enjoyed by anyone interested in improving the security of their digital information.

Businesses

Keeping your business safe and protected from cybercrime requires using many of the same techniques outlined above. One of the most common ways that businesses can fall victim to cybercrime is through ransomware attacking their systems and this is often as a result of software not being kept up to date.

Vulnerabilities in technology are always being discovered and in response, vendors regularly issue security updates to plug the gaps. Applying these updates – a process commonly known as patching – closes vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them. Patching can also fix bugs, add new features, increase stability, and improve look and feel (or other aspects of the user experience).
Patching is the single most important thing you can do to secure your technology. Find out more about patching and the many other ways you can protect your business from the National Cyber Security Centre.