Five simple steps to staying safe online  header image

Published: 13th Nov 2014

The internet has changed our lives for the better in numerous ways. However, there is a small minority of people who look to exploit the web for their own benefit and at the expense of others. 

Hackers and cyber criminals use the internet to steal people's personal information and commit identity theft, a form of crime that is believed to cost the global economy billions each year. As a result, it's important to know how to use the web securely if you're to stay safe from these threats and enjoy all the benefits your broadband connection has to offer.

With that in mind, we've produced a simple beginner's guide to how you can stay safe online.

Get protected
The first step you should take to secure your broadband connection is to install some form of anti-virus and malware protection. This will automatically defend your computer from any threats it may encounter and alert you to any more serious problems.

Some anti-virus services, such as AVG, are completely free, while others work on a paid-subscription basis. For many people, a free service provides a sufficient level of security, although the more you pay for your protection the greater it will be.

Picking passwords
While installing anti-virus software is vital, you can't expect it to do all of the work for you. If you're to stay as safe as possible, there's a few simple things you'll need to do yourself. 

First of all, it's important to put some thought into the passwords you use online. These need to be hard to guess and should ideally contain a mixture of upper and lowercase numbers and letters. It's also important to vary your passwords. Using the same password for all of your online accounts is risky, as if a hacker gets hold of one they could potentially use it to access all of your web-based information.

Pay attention
You can stay safe on the web by keeping an eye out for anything suspicious and avoiding it. Thankfully, insecure websites are often quite easy to spot - they tend to be poorly designed and contain a large number of pop-up adverts. If you come across a site like this, leave quickly and avoid clicking on any links it may contain. 

You can tell if a website is secure by the presence of a padlock symbol next to the web address in your browser bar. Never enter your bank details on a page that does not have this symbol. If you're ever unsure about whether a website can be trusted, it's best to err on the side of caution.

Be sure about sharing
Always think carefully about sharing any form of personal information online. From your bank details to your address, you should only ever provide personal details to websites that are secure and you are sure you can trust. 

Think about what you put on social media too, making sure your privacy settings only allow friends or followers to see your details. This way you drastically reduce the chance of your information falling into the wrong hands.

Don't go public
A final thing to consider is how you are accessing the web. Are you using a public computer or connecting through a public Wi-Fi network? If so, never upload any sensitive personal information, as you have no way of knowing if the connection is secure.