Keeping your computer and other mobile devices secure is a sure way to prevent anyone from illegally accessing your details. Read on for more information and advice.

Gangs and skilled individuals operate all over the world and they have the opportunity to access all sorts of things they wouldn’t otherwise be able to thanks to the internet.

Most tricks can be avoided by making sure your computer is up to date with the latest protection.

Make use of security software

To keep your device secure you need to make sure that viruses are kept out. To do this you have to ensure that your PC is installed with anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a firewall.

This protective software scans your computer for hidden programs which could record what you have been doing or make changes to your computer system. Even if you only use your computer occasionally you should ensure it is protected.

Update your computer and software regularly – this reduces online risks.

Be aware of spyware accessing your device

Spyware will ‘spy’ on your system and gather information you enter into websites you visit. If your computer is infected with spyware you may notice changes when you log on in the form of unwanted windows opening, or the computer being slower than usual.

Most extreme versions of spyware will scan your hard-drive for credit card details. There are many ways you can get infected with spyware:

  • downloading software not checked or verified from the internet
  • streaming files from illegal sharing websites
  • visiting dodgy websites
  • clicking on email attachments which are actually spam.

The easiest way to avoid infection is to not download anything which is not from a trusted source and also to keep anti-virus software up to date.

Keep malware at bay

Malware is short for malicious software. Types of malware can include viruses which shut down your entire system and spread from computer to computer as well as programs that corrupt applications and software that sends messages to everyone in your address book.

Don’t download or click on anything you’re not sure about.

Ways to keep your device locked up and backed up

‌There are plenty of ways to keep your device safe, whether it's a PC, laptop or smart phone:

Firewalls This monitors all traffic in and out of your online connection, making sure only messages you want can get through. Viruses and malware can be controlled by the firewall.

Some modern firewalls allow you to control the level of security you require and provide reports to show the effectiveness of each setting.

There are lots of free and paid for firewalls available to download online. 

Anti-virus This runs continuously in the background scanning for potential threats. If you have a relatively new computer it may already come equipped with antivirus software and will tell you when it is set to expire.

If you do not have it type 'antivirus' or 'computer security software' into a search engine and a list of options will come up.

Email security Consider setting up primary and a secondary email accounts. Use the first one for personal emails and the second one that you use when you sign up to online services or make online purchases. This will help you receive fewer spam mail.

How your password can keep the broadband burglar at bay

Having a secure password can keep a lot of trouble at bay. Follow these simple guidelines and protect yourself. 

  • don't keep your password for your computer, online banking or email accounts anywhere near your computer
  • don't keep passwords stored on your computer
  • avoid having your computer 'remember' passwords, especially if it is used by other people
  • avoid the following passwords:
  •  password/access – these are commonly used passwords and easy to guess
  • your birthday/anniversary/pet's name/football team – anything which is directly linked to you makes it easy to guess and thanks to social networking these common things are easy to find out
  •  123456 – too easy to guess
  • passwords are harder to crack if they contain upper and lower case letters, number and symbols
  • software is available to guess a password by attempting many different combinations very quickly
  • having a longer password made up of numbers and case changes makes for a greater number of possible combinations to crack
  • if you need to change your password because it has been compromised change it to something entirely different
  • there is a huge temptation to use the same password for everything – don't and have a selection of passwords.

BE wary of wireless connections

In any built up area there will be a number of wireless networks available. A majority of these will be security protected by a password however some will not.

Don't connect to any of these unless you have been invited to. It is illegal and your computer/mobile device will be connected to a network you do not know. You may get free internet but you may also give away information which you do not want to.

If you do have your own wireless connection make sure it has a good strong password protection because you do not want people you don't know accessing your wireless connection.

In many places now you can get free access to 'Wi-Fi hotspots'. Users should not address sensitive information while being on an open insecure Wi-Fi internet. Everything sent through Wi-Fi is potentially at risk. A lot of criminals have identified easy opportunities by exploiting Wi-Fi networks that exist in every coffee shop.


What to do if you lose any data

USBs are small devices which plug into your computer. They have become a standard method to store and transport files, pictures and documents from your computer.

If you are using a USB to transport any sort of important files with personal details make sure you don't lose it. That information could be useful to the everyday computer criminal.

Make sure all personal files on a USB stick are encrypted. You can protect yourself against loss of data through backing up and/or storage. This can be done using portable hard-drives, CD's or USB sticks.


Checklist for online safety at home 

  • check your computer has a password when you turn it on, this is the first level of security
  • don't ignore security messages popping up on your computer or browser – it may be telling you that there is a security problem
  • don't keep personal information stored in documents or written on notes around your computer
  • remove any information such as your phone number and date of birth off social networking sites
  • if you think someone could guess your passwords change them
  • make sure you know who is using your computer and educate them around safety.