Email and account security online

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Email and account security

The internet and email are great ways of sharing information and making purchases. However, in turn there is sensitive information in this space that we need to keep to secure.

Online criminals know as 'hackers' attempt to obtain this private information using phishing sites, spyware and malicious viruses. As technology progresses, hackers look for cleverer ways to obtain passwords, personal information and credit card details.

It is important to ensure you have up to date virus protection installed on your computer and that you keep an eye out for phishing attacks.

If successful, hackers have the potential to:

  • Infect your computer with spyware - this then tracks your online activity and can steal important personal details or enough of your identity to pose as you elsewhere online.

  • Disrupt your computer with pop-ups and viruses.

  • Take control your computer remotely and use it to attack other people.

  • Send you spam and scam emails.

  • Trick you into visiting fake websites and handing over personal information.

  • Hack into your wireless network

How do I keep my computer safe?

Make sure you have a good security programme installed on your computer such as Norton Internet Security that contains anti-virus, Spyware and firewall protection. Using a programme such as this will intercept any malicious sites or software that hackers use to try to gain access to your computer.

You can also download free, third party services that will tell you if it has found any security risks or problems for the site you are using. If you computer works on a Microsoft Windows system try this free antivirus software and this anti-malware software, which should pick up anything else that the antivirus misses.

Use your anti-virus software to thoroughly scan your computer for viruses every week and take regular backups of your important files. The more important the information, the more frequently it should be backed up, password protected (most operating systems will allow you to lock your files with a password) and monitored by you.

Make sure that your wireless network has a password and is encrypted. This will stop others using your connection for free and possibly being able to see what you're looking at.

Protect your online accounts with strong passwords

  1. For every new account, create a new password. Using the same password for you email and internet banking would make things much easier for the hackers. Use a variety of passwords and change them frequently.

  2. Never write down your password (especially not on your computer) or tell your password to anyone else. If a hacker manages to get access to your computer they would also get your passwords too!

  3. Choose a strong password in the first place. Make sure your password isn't easy to guess and is at least seven characters long. Because of the way passwords are encrypted, the most secure passwords are seven to 14 characters long. The password should contain letters (uppercase and lowercase), numerals and, where possible, symbols. Ensure that it's significantly different from prior passwords and never contains your name or username.

How do I know if it's safe?

Vigilance is key. Be suspicious of every website that isn’t well known to you. Does the website address or website name seem odd? Are there numerous spelling mistakes or grammatical errors? If you feel at all uneasy about a website, leave it immediately by clicking the back button or by closing your web browser. Don’t click on any link that you feel unsure of or that seems to have no plausible purpose.

If you are asked to download and install any Applet, ActiveX Control or anything else, don’t do it! Click the cancel button or go to another web page immediately.

Also, be aware that we will never ask you to log in to any other site than in order to change your advert or personal details. You should only ever be logging in from a secure link (either a domain name beginning https or with a padlock icon by the web address). This is the only place we will ever ask you for your password and will never request it by email.

What should I do if I think my computer has been infected?

75% of computer problems are due to viruses and they can be removed. Take your computer/laptop to your local computer hardware store (check to see if they do repairs) and avoid using your computer until the virus has been removed. More importantly, do not log into any personal accounts such as internet banking if you think your computer is infected.