Cybercrime is a hot topic at the moment, and with good reason. People are spending more time online due to work and social restrictions imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This increased online presence is presenting cybercriminals with more opportunities to target individuals and businesses.

Whether through negligence or by being tricked, many people hand over personal data with consequences ranging from their data being sold to complete identity theft. 

Being a victim of cybercrime is something that concerns around 50% of UK households. This fear seems justified, as ActionFraud stated there were just under 24,000 cybercrime incidents in the 2018/19 financial year, resulting in total losses of £40 million.

Following these eleven safety tips can help keep you safe while you are online.

1. Use Strong Passwords

Regardless of whatever platform you are accessing or which application you want to use, follow these rules to keep your passwords strong and secure:

  • Don’t use names, including names of pets, favourite teams, mother’s maiden name, etc. Cybercriminals can get all of these details from your social media posts, and they will be the first passwords they try to break into your accounts.
  • Always use a mixture of upper and lowercase characters mixed with numbers and symbols to make up your passwords. To give you an idea of how long it takes to hack your password, visit howsecureismypassword.net.
  • Do not use the same password for different accounts. Having different passwords means that if you get hacked, the criminals will only have access to one rather than several.

2. Keep Your Social Media Posts Free of Personal Details

Never be tempted to place personal details on your social media posts. Information such as birthday, address, full name, etc, make it easier for criminals to hack into your account or replicate your identity.

You should also keep a regular check on your social media privacy settings. Ensure that you are only sharing information with trusted contacts, rather than everyone on the platform.

3. Beware of Scam Emails

Emails with generic subjects such as “Here’s a funny photo of you,” or “I never knew you had….”, tend to be worded as such that they entice you to click on the link or open an attachment. 

If you don’t recognise the sender, you should not open an email. Even if you do know the sender, you should be cautious about opening links or attachments, as the sender may have had their email address hijacked by scammers. Never hand over personal details, passwords, or financial information in an email.

4. Beware of Untrusted Software Downloads

The most secure place to download your software from is your device’s app store. Searching for cheaper or free versions of the same app might mean you end up with a malicious programme.

5. Take Care With Your Cards

You should use only one card for online payments. This card should be a credit card rather than a debit card that links directly to your bank.

Set a limit on this credit card so that if it is compromised, you will not be too severely off while the credit card company investigates the incident. Sign up all of your cards to the Visa Verified or SecureCode from MasterCard schemes. These schemes place an additional security level, which means that you have to input several characters from your password before a transaction is completed.

Always check that the site you are making a payment through is secure. Their URL should begin with HTTPS:// or it should display a padlock.

6. Storing Personal Data

As convenient as it seems, ticking the Remember Me checkbox on a website can result in a lot of personal and financial data stored by that site. Completing your details every time you use the website might seem a hassle, but it is much more secure. Also, clicking the Remember Me checkbox often triggers a clause in the T&Cs that your data can be shared with 3rd parties for targeted advertising.

When you agree to your data being stored online, you assume that it will be stored correctly. However, even reputable companies like Equifax can fall foul of hackers. They suffered a hack in 2017 that resulted in the leak of 209,000 credit card details.

7. Set Up 2-Step Verification

Two-step verification applies an additional level of security for your devices and online accounts. It requires you to enter a code as well as your password. Each time you attempt to log in, you will receive a text message with an access code that then needs to be entered on the website, application, or device.

8. Secure Your Devices

You should ensure that all of your devices are secured from unauthorised access. Set up a password, PIN, facial, or fingerprint recognition. Doing this will protect your data should the device get lost or stolen.

Use only the latest versions of software, apps, and other programmes. Older versions may not include all up-to-date security patches. When updates come through, you should apply them as soon as possible, as they often include the latest security patches.

9. Don’t Stay Logged On

Ensure that you log out of all accounts, regardless of the application or the device you are using. This rule applies to email accounts, online banking, and social media, etc. 

10. Never Search for Specific URLs

A common tactic of hackers is to deceive people with fake URLs that look similar to the original. Never copy a URL and paste it into a search engine. Always type the URL yourself to locate a website address.

11. Improve Your Home Network

Don’t keep the same username and password that comes with the router provided by your broadband supplier. These routers generally come with a preset username and password, which are standard for all users of the same make and model of router. You should change both the username and the password to something strong, secure, and unique to that device or account.

Router passwords and usernames can usually be changed from the router’s settings. You can find detailed instructions for doing this on your broadband provider’s website.

Conclusion

The more time people spend online, the more opportunities scammers, hackers, and other cybercriminals will have to steal your data, money, or identity. Following these eleven tips will not make you invincible to cybercrime, but it will significantly improve your security. This practice should be enough to put the cybercriminals off and make them look for less well-protected prey.