How to stay safe online
What are the basics for staying safe online?
Follow these simple rules to immediately reduce the risk of falling foul of anything nasty on the Internet.
- Always keep your software and apps up to date.
- Don't install any software or apps unless you trust where they've come from.
- Run regular anti-virus and anti-malware scans on your computer or device.
- Use passwords that aren't easy for people to guess and don't share them with anyone.
- Don't connect to a Wi-Fi network that isn't secured.
- Be very wary of pop-ups that appear on your screen when you're browsing online.
- Never reply to an email that asks for your password, bank account details or personal information – we'll never ask you for these in an email and neither will your bank.
- Be suspicious of calls from people who want to access to your computer. If you're in any doubt, hang up and call the company they claim to be, using a number that you've found through one of their official channels.
- Don't use websites that offer illegal film and music downloads – those downloads might be free, but they often come with malware or viruses.
- Remember people aren't always who they say they are – it's easy to pretend to be someone else online.
- Bear in mind that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
What security protection should I have?
Prevention is better than cure. So keep the bad things at bay by making sure your network's secure and your devices are protected.
Get the latest anti-virus software. It'll come included with later versions of Windows (7 and above). For added peace of mind, consider getting Plusnet Protect, which is our anti-virus protection. Then run regular scans to make sure everything's as it should be.
If you've got a Plusnet email address, you can enable anti-virus protection for your emails.
All our routers have the firewall enabled by default. If you're using a non-Plusnet router, make sure the firewall's switched on. You can also switch on your broadband firewall.
Some more things you can do
Use an ad-blocker. Some online adverts contain links to malicious software that try to infect your computer.
When banking or shopping, look for the padlock symbol or 'https://' in your browser's address bar. It means you're using a secure connection, so what you're doing isn't being snooped on.
Don't connect things like USB sticks to your computer unless you know and trust where they've come from.
Back up your important files and settings. Then if the worst does happen, you'll be able to get back the things that are important to you.
How do I secure my Wi-Fi network?
Think of your Internet connection like your home. You wouldn't leave your door wide open or the keys on the doorstep. The same goes for your Wi-Fi network.
Here's how to keep it safe from intruders who could steal your data or snoop on your online activities.
- Change the name of your network and your Wi-Fi password to something you've chosen yourself.
- Hide your network so it won't appear on anyone else's list when they scan for Wi-Fi hotspots.
- Make sure you're using a secure connection, like WPA2 (Wi-Fi protected access).
- Be careful about who you give your password to. If your router supports it, you might want to create a separate Wi-Fi network for guest access. You can even set up a separate password for guests using your connection.
What are the most secure types of passwords?
Most accounts you have online will be protected by a password. So it's important to choose one that no one can guess and to keep it under wraps.
Here are some tips for making sure your password really will protect your account.
- Steer clear of family names, your birthday, or your phone number. They're the first things people will guess if they're trying to get into one of your accounts.
- Use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters like @ # $ % ^ &. So instead of 'teaandbiscuitsfortwo' use 'Tea&biscuitsfor2'.
- Don't use the same password for everything. If you do and someone guesses it, they'll be able to get into all your accounts.
- Keep your password to yourself and change it if you think someone knows what it is.
- Never send a password in an email. Remember, we'll never email you about things like that.
- If you need to write down a password to remember it, use hints rather than the word itself. Or use a password managing system like Lastpass or Keepass to look after it for you.
- If you're really worried, you can use something called 'multi factor authentication' for a lot of widely-used services like Gmail and Facebook. Similar to online banking security, it means you always need a separate code to log in, which they'll send you on a key fob or in a text message. It means that even if someone knows your password, they can't log in.
Have a look at our username and password security guide to find out more.
How can I keep my email account safe?
Emails are part of everyday life now. But that doesn't mean they're always trustworthy.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you're emailing.
If you've got a Plusnet email address,
- Switch on the virus and anti-spam protection.
- Never post your email address where everyone can see it, like in a public online forum. Scammers are known to trawl webpages for email addresses.
- Don't reply to an email claiming you've won a prize for a competition you haven't entered, or from a wealthy person overseas needing your help moving large sums of money. These are always fake, so just delete them.
- Be wary of 'phishing'. This is when a scammer sends an email pretending to be from a trusted company to cheat you into giving them your personal details. Don't reply, open any attachments or click any links. Just delete it.
- Even in an email that looks trustworthy, hover over any links to see where they go before you click them. If the website address looks suspicious, don't click on it.
- If your email program allows it, look for an option to block attached images. Some scammers include tracking images and links in their emails, but they won't work if you have images blocked. Be wary of images and other attachments (a common one is an invoice you haven't paid for) in suspicious-looking emails because they could be viruses.
- If an obvious spam email has a link to unsubscribe, don't click it. It won't be genuine and clicking it only confirms that your email address is in use.
I think I've received a fraud email - how do I report it?
Think you've been a victim of Internet crime or want to report a scammer? Then go to Action Fraud UK and follow the steps on their website. Action Fraud UK is for more than just reporting emails. Take a look at their website for more info.
If you've had an email from someone claiming to be Plusnet that you think is fake, you can let us know by forwarding it to email@example.com. If you've had a suspicious email or call that you want to talk to us about, find out how to report service abuse.
How can I stay safe on social media?
Social media is great for keeping up to date with friends and sharing photos. These days, we're using it more and more. We trust websites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with all sorts of information about ourselves. But it's important to know whether you're sharing things with just friends and family or with the whole world.
Here are our tips for being safe and sensible on social media.
- Remember how easy it is for people to pretend to be someone they're not online. Don't message people unless you know them personally and always ask yourself, 'How sure am I that this person is who they say they are?'
- Don't accept friend requests from people you don't know. Be wary of anyone claiming to be a friend of a friend. Always check with your mutual friend first.
- Never give away passwords or private information on social media.
- Check your privacy settings. Twitter and Instagram make your posts public unless you change your settings. Facebook limits who can see your posts, but it's still good to check exactly what your settings are. Clicking 'View as' lets you see how others see your profile.
- Think about what you post and who can see it. When you post that you're excited about your holiday, are you actually just telling everyone that your home will be empty for a week? When you mention your party on a public page, are you unintentionally inviting hundreds of people you don't know to come to your home? When you post a photo of your child's first day at school, who exactly can see that photo?
- Consider what the public information on your profile says about you. For example, many prospective employers will look at your social media accounts before hiring you. Is your public information giving the right impression?
How can I make sure my children are safe when they're online?
It's not unusual for children and teenagers to know more than adults when it comes to using computers and the Internet. But the threat of things like online bullying and grooming is very real. Children don't often realise these dangers.
Here's our advice for keeping them out of harm's way when they're online.
- There's no substitute for supervision. Take an interest in what your children are doing online, even if you don't understand it at first.
- Keep the computer in a room where the whole family are, not their bedrooms. Don't allow small children to play on devices with Internet access.
- Teach your children from a young age that they mustn't give out personal information online. That includes their name, address, school, phone number, or photos of themselves.
- Children know not to talk to strangers in the street, so make sure they know not to send messages to strangers online either. If someone is bothering them, tell them that they must let you know straightaway.
- Have set times when your children are allowed to go online and times when they can't. Some routers let you set time limits so that specific devices can't connect to the Internet at certain times. Check your manual for how to do that.
- Agree with your children what sites they can and can't visit. A lot of websites, like YouTube, have sections designed especially for children.
- Bookmark or set up easy-to-access shortcuts to the websites you're happy for them to use.
- Social networks usually have a minimum age limit. Facebook's is 13. If you have a teenager who's using social media, make sure they know how to check their privacy settings.
- Switch on Plusnet SafeGuard. No parental controls service guarantees complete protection for your child, but it can add an extra layer of protection when you're not supervising them.
- Remember, it's not just computers that can connect to the Internet these days. Your children could be using mobile phones, games consoles and even TVs to get online.
I'd like to know more - where else can I read about online security?
There are lots of great websites that give hints, tips and walkthroughs on how to stay safe when using the Internet.
Here are some of our favourites.
- Get Safe Online – free expert advice
- Internetmatters.org – information, advice and support to keep children safe online
- UK Safer Internet Centre – e-safety tips, advice and resources
- Ni Direct Goverment Services – general guidance on staying safe online
- Stay Safe Online – how to protect yourself, your family and your devices