On the 14 February 2017 the Queen opened a new National Centre for Cyber Security. With more and more of us living our lives online, are we really aware of the dangers of cyber-attacks to businesses and individuals? Ron Austin, Senior Lecturer in Data Networks and Security, shares his tips for keeping safe online.

The Internet is a powerful and wonderful tool that allows people to communicate and share ideas, however just as you would not leave your home without locking the doors and windows, you should not venture out on to the Internet without understanding some of the rules and best practices.

  1. Keep your systems up to date.

The most popular operating systems (Apple, Microsoft and Linux) provide automatic security updates.

Windows 8 and Windows 8.1

To turn on Automatic Updates yourself, follow these steps:

  1. Open Windows Update by swiping in from the right edge of the screen (or, if you’re using a mouse, by pointing to the lower-right corner of the screen and moving the mouse pointer up), then tapping or clicking Settings, tapping or clicking Change PC settings, and then tapping or clicking Update and recovery.
  2. Tap or click Choose how updates get installed.
  3. Under Important updates, select the option that you want.
  4. Under Recommended updates, select the Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates check box, and then click Apply.
  1. Do not click on unknown links in emails from people or companies that you don’t know or have not subscribed to.

Don’t believe the offers you may receive online. If it looks too good to be true, it’s normally a scam. These types of scams are looking to gain access to your P.C and network via a virus.

  1. If you have your laptop or P.C in a bedroom, cover up the webcam.

There are a number of remote access Trojans (RATS) that allow an attacker to view you from your webcam.

  1. Passwords need to be different for every site you use.

I would recommend a password manager. 1password (https://1password.com) or lastpass (https://lastpass.com/) are very good password managers. These applications and sites will generate and store a password that is both long and random, so that you don’t need to remember all your different passwords. This reduces the risk of using the same password across different sites. And if one site is compromised and your details are released, you are not allowing an attacker into other sites.

  1. When shopping online make sure the site is https and shows the padlock icon in the browser bar.
  1. Use a credit card for online purchases as this offers more protection from fraud.
  1. Change the default password on your home routers and wireless hub.

The passwords on a home router are set up for you, but the default passwords are easily broken, so you need to change them to something more secure. Log in to the router (the password is normally on the back of the router) and then follow the guidance from your ISP (Internet Service Provider) for changing the password.

  1. Change the firewall setting on your wireless router.

The firewall on a router is normally set to low, which means it is not looking very deeply at the traffic, so isn’t giving you full protection. You can reset this to either medium or high. If you are a gamer and play online games you will need to review this as it will stop games from playing.

  1. If out and using an open hotspot, make sure you use a VPN (virtual private network).

Opera offers a free VPN but there are many very good paid for services. The question to ask yourself is: how much would I lose if my data was compromised?  The VPN adds another layer of security to your data traffic as it crosses the network. This makes it harder for anyone else to look at your traffic and be able to read it.  The VPNs available are normally an option on your smartphone as shown below:

  1. Finally, back up your data, either to a hard drive or cloud provider.
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