Dr Lisa Sugiura, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Cybercrime, gives her top 5 tips for staying safe online:
This year’s Safer Internet day is on Tuesday 7 February, with the theme ‘Be the change: Unite for a better Internet.’ The adoption of a revolutionary collaborative approach to securing online use is a positive step in the right direction in the fight against cybercrime.
Everyone can contribute to make the Internet a safer place, from Internet users to the range of state and private commercial actors involved in policing the Internet, as such education and the sharing of information about how to mitigate online risks and reduce vulnerabilities, is paramount. This is something that has been highlighted via ongoing research and the development of our new cybercrime programmes here at Portsmouth. With this in mind, below are my top five tips for staying safe online:
- Communication and engagement with children – Have conversations with children and young adults about using technology and the Internet, which are informative but non-judgemental, so that they know that they are able to discuss any issues with you, even if they might be embarrassing. Encourage them to ask questions and think critically about online content, so that they can make informed choices and challenge untrustworthy materials/ activities. Keep an eye on what sites are being visited, who is being spoken to online and use parental controls on devices. However, the key thing is the continual dialogue as monitoring online content in the home is more manageable than what children and young adults might be accessing elsewhere.
- Passwords – Change passwords regularly, have different passwords for each site you visit, and never give your password to anyone else. Also, avoid writing these down anywhere. There are actually Internet password notebooks for sale, which is not only ludicrous (why do they have to be specifically titled as such – what makes them so distinct from other notebooks?) but obvious security risks if they were to fall into the wrong hands. Unless you have the skills of a Bletchley Park coder it is best not to put passwords in writing and certainly not to store them all together.
- Protected purchasing – Use trusted providers when you shop online. The padlock symbol (or site identity button) that appears in your address bar, indicates that the website you are visiting is secure. Never send any sensitive information (e.g. bank details, credit card information, address etc.) to a website without the padlock symbol as there is no guarantee that you are communicating with the intended website, nor that your information is safe from eavesdropping. Always undertake research if making expensive purchases (e.g. holidays) to ensure the company is legitimate.
- Block suspicious traffic – Set up a block or filter for any junk/ spam mail in email accounts and put a block on computers that prevents unsavoury or illegal websites that might host malware or spyware.
- Privacy on social media – Keep a constant check on social media privacy settings. Sometimes these change without warning and so it is best to be vigilant and run regular checks against personal profiles so that you can identify what strangers can see. This way personal information can be concealed from the public arena. However, still be mindful about who is in your social networking friendship/ follower groups and whether they have people unknown to you, in their networks, who can also view your information. Consider whether your online friends are really your friends. Can you confirm the identity of all of them? In addition be careful about who you accept friend requests from.
Finally an important thing to remember when using the Internet is: if an offer seems too good to be true then it probably is.