You wouldn’t leave your credit card details, bank account number or building society statement lying around for all to see – so why should it be any different when you are using a computer?
When you use your computer to store or share your own personal and private details you should act just as you would when dealing with other confidential documents.
Personal privacy and the threat of identity theft have never been more prominent in an ever-increasing tech and digital-savvy age. However, every year thousands of people fall foul of the fraudsters or allow sensitive information to be seen and shared by others.
Here are a number of things you can remember to ensure you’re not the next victim of these online crimes.
Use the latest software
Running old operating systems on your computer can lead to your sensitive information becoming vulnerable. The most recent version of programmes such as Windows and OS are usually the most secure and adept at repelling threats. Updates are available from the software manufacturer and are usually free to download. Sometimes, you will even be prompted to update – don’t ignore the option!
Choose the right password
Most websites, particularly ones which use personal information, will require passwords to protect your identity. Remember, if passwords get into the wrong hands or are easy to guess, your personal details could be easily accessible.
Using strong passwords is especially important when you’re spending money online. Don’t use something obvious like your date of birth or house name. Make sure your password contains letters and numbers and that you change it regularly. Oh, and don’t tell anyone your password!
Alternate your passwords
Try not to use the same password for all of your online accounts. It goes without saying that if someone manages to crack one account by working out your password – they’ll then be able to access all other pages that use the same security details. So there is no need to write down your password, keep them all similar; but vary each one slightly so you can remember them easily.
Don’t forget to log off
When you are using a website that involves giving your personal details, such as online banking, be sure to log off at the end of your session on the computer. This is particularly important if you are using a PC in a public place, such as an internet cafe, as all your information will remain on the machine for the next user to see.
A firewall acts as a filter between your computer or network and the internet. As such, a firewall prevents unauthorised access to your computer and is designed to stop malicious software from infiltrating your machine and accessing your details.
Be selective with your email
Try not to open emails and attachments from unfamiliar individuals – or ones that just generally look suspicious. Every year millions of people are sent emails in the hope that they will open them and unwittingly share their personal information. If you receive any emails that you are suspicious of, or that asks you for bank or credit card details, don’t open them and delete immediately.
Clear your cache
In order to speed up browsing, software is designed to retain pages and information you have already accessed on your system; making it easier to access next time you go online. Obviously some of the information your browser is retaining could be sensitive.
This simple computer maintenance can go a long way to ensuring your details are kept safe, and regularly clearing your cookies or cache files can help to make sure this information doesn’t get into the wrong hands – especially if you are using a shared computer.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Clive Darra