Safer Internet Day: 7 top tips for staying secure online

With tomorrow (Tuesday 11 February) marking Safer Internet Day, Raj Samani, Chief Scientist and McAfee fellow, talks about how to stay safe online…

“Safer Internet Day shines a light on the most critical issues facing people today, protecting what matters to them in a hyper-connected world. It is everyone’s responsibility to educate each other – we need to share knowledge and kick-start conversations as early as possible, particularly from a young age, in order to protect against the risks we face as people living in an predominantly online world.

As the time we spend online continues to increase both actively and passively – from emails, shopping and browsing to apps, social media, and smart home devices – so too does the number of opportunities cybercriminals can exploit.

Over the last year especially, we’ve seen a huge increase in cyberattacks and the emergence of scams such as the HRMC scams which involved cybercriminals sending very authentic-looking messages from credible-looking email addresses with the aim of capturing personal information, or the emergence of dangerous apps on the Google Play store.

In response to these ever frequent online threats and scams, businesses, companies and organisations have introduced measures with the aim of limiting the security risks customers and consumers are exposed to. For example, last month, The Data Watchdog introduced new guidelines for social media sites, online games and streaming services to tighten up their privacy settings for children. This is a vital step in the right direction, but more still needs to be done.

So, as cybercriminals become more sophisticated, we all need to take responsibility for what we do online and become part of a wider crackdown on online safety. From businesses taking greater responsibilities to better protect customer data, through to parents engaging in conversations with their children around online safety, there’s a lot that everyone can do to ensure they can enjoy all the benefits of the digital age and minimise the risks.”

Here are some of the steps you can take to stay safe on Safer Internet Day. 

 7 Tips for consumers to stay protected on Safer Internet Day:

  • Think before you click: One of the easiest ways for cybercriminals to compromise your device is through a malicious link. Be sceptical if you receive a link or other solicitation that you are not expecting.
  • Update your software: Whether it’s your PC, smartphone, digital assistant or even your drone, keep the software up to date. Manufacturers plug security holes with device updates so it’s important to always install the latest versions as soon as possible. Where applicable use up-to-date security software. 
  • Beware of shady public Wi-Fi hotspots: Cybercriminals often deploy fake Wi-Fi hotspots that appear to be legitimate, but give them visibility into your browsing habits. If you have to use public Wi-Fi refrain from online shopping or banking. If you need to shop or bank on public Wi-Fi use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), to encrypt your network traffic.
  • Do your homework: Not all manufacturers take security seriously, especially when it comes to gadgets such as connected toys, so it’s important to research if there have been any reported security vulnerabilities before purchasing.
  • Check security settings before buying IoT devices: We are constantly connected through our smartphones, digital assistants, gaming and reading devices, so always research the manufacturer to find out if they give security top priority before buying.
  • Securing your mobile: Make sure all your devices are protected from malware and mobile threats by using security software that can warn you about risky apps and dangerous links, as well as help you locate and lock down a missing device.
  • Stick to the store: only download highly-rated apps from official app stores and check the app’s permissions to see how much of your private information the app is trying to access – if it asks for too much unnecessary information, don’t download it. 
Chris Price