How to be secure online and avoid the common mistakes
We’ve all received the emails, telling us we’ve won the Spanish lottery or there are millions awaiting us from a now deceased member of government from a corrupt country if ONLY we’ll give them our bank account details! Or that our Paypal, Bank of Ireland, Allied Irish Bank, Permanent TSB account details need to be reset, please send your account information immediately.
Best practice dictates that you ignore or mark as spam, all such solicitations from deposed African dictators with millions to move. In the same way, all financial institutions will never contact you by email to change, amend or update your details so you can ignore those too.
Be wary if you receive information saying that your website needs to be updated and asking you to install any software or security patches. Any security updates should be done by your website developer. If you manage your own website and received such a notification, check the website of the software supplier to see if they are featuring the same update/patch. If they say that there is an update then download it from there. If you are in any doubt about the legitimacy of the update then consult your website developer. There have been several attempts lately to hack websites so it is ALWAYS a good idea to make sure that your website is safe and secure. Not having your website or emails secure can leave you blacklisted which is NOT good for business which is why we always offer a security maintenance option to all our clients. My fellow Coppertop Andrea has written about this in another blog post.
However if the updates are coming from Microsoft and appear in the bottom right hand corner of your screen then they are legit and feel free to download and install. Having firewalls installed both on your website and on your own laptop/desktop is also a must, Microsoft have free firewalls and also suppliers like AVG, Avast will have a free firewall and internet security option you can download. It is also worth scanning your computers regularly to ensure that you are free from any malware or viruses.
If you are worried about your emails being compromised, one of the most secure email providers I have found is of course Gmail. It has very robust spam filters which will pluck out all suspicious looking emails (its AMAZING how much viagra is available for sale out there!). Ensure you have a robust and secure password (no 1234 passwords please!), use a combination of letters including captials, numbers and symbols. If you have a lot of passwords to remember, then just write them down in a notebook. Our recommendation would be to use a password storage system like Lastpass which is SO handy for not just remembering passwords, but it also generates secure ones. Again we created another blog post on this. Google does offer a 2-step verification where you can supply either a mobile number or a code which Google will request if you have forgotten your password. Google will also notify you if there has been a login attempt at an unfamiliar location. For example it notified me that someone (in this case it was me) tried to access my gmail while in Spain.
The whole concept behind social media is being able to share things but it is still worth checking your security settings to make sure they are set up correctly. For Facebook, you can find these under the drop down arrow on the top right hand side, click on the settings and then review both the Security option AND more importantly the Privacy settings. These privacy settings control who sees what on your Facebook page. Make sure you are happy with what is being seen and shared. A good rule of thumb is to never put something on social media that you wouldn’t say to your mother face to face.
For parents, it is vital that you know what social media/websites your children are accessing. Facebook has an age limit, no child under the age of 13 should have a Facebook account. If they are older and have an account, ensure you ‘friend’ them or know their passwords so you can check the activity. And always sit with them and talk about being online, the rules and regulations, how to behave and when to speak out about activity or contact that makes them uncomfortable. For further information and advice parents can check out Webwise which is the Irish Internet Safety Awareness Centre. It provides teaching resources and advice on internet safety topics, including cyberbullying and privacy.You may be feeling a little nervous about your own website now. We do offer website security reviews if you’d like us to take a look. We also offer a monthly security maintenance package to ensure your website is always updated and secure, please contact us to find out more and get a proposal.
Despite all this, the internet and your information is very safe generally so don’t be alarmed. As you would lock your front door when you leave, be sensible when online and take precautions. Don’t respond or install anything you’re not sure of, delete it straight away. And remember if the wife of a deposed African leader offers you millions, hit the spam button straight away!