Computer viruses and spyware don't come from nowhere. Like catching a cold, there are some places you're more likely to get them.
Some websites can infect your computer when you go to them. The best way to avoid problems is to stick to websites you know and trust. Or ones linked to them.
When you search online, McAfee Security for O2 Home Broadband shows you which websites are safe with SiteAdvisor.
Be wary of free downloads. Especially if you're getting them using peer-to-peer (P2P) software. Make sure you check everything for viruses before you use it. McAfee Security for O2 Home Broadband does this automatically.
Fake emails and attachments
Be careful of emails from people you don't know or recognise. Don't open any attachments unless you're sure they're safe.
Even if an email is from someone you trust, be careful. Some viruses spread by emailing themselves from an infected computer without the owner knowing.
McAfee Security for O2 Home Broadband checks your email for viruses before it even reaches your inbox.
‘Free’ or too-good-to-be-true software
There's one simple rule to help you stay out of trouble. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
If you see software that’s usually expensive being offered dirt cheap or free, be careful. You might end up with more than you bargained for.
Double-check the small print of any software that says it’s paid for by advertising. Sometimes this is another way of saying 'it contains spyware'. And make sure you keep viruses off your computer by running regular scans.
Passwords – dos and don’ts
- Use a password. And don’t tell anyone what it is.
- If you need to write your password down, keep it in a safe place away from your computer.
- Make the password long enough for it to be safe. Eight characters or more is good.
- Make your password more secure by using letters, numbers or other characters, like exclamation marks. Capitals will help, too.
- Make your password easy to remember. But don’t use personal words, like family or pet names or key dates, like birthdays. The idea is to make your password hard to guess. Even by someone who knows you well.
- It’s not a good idea to use the same password for different accounts. If one account gets hacked, so might all the others.
- Don’t use a logical sequence of characters. Or repetitions. Like 111, 123, abc, or qwerty.
- Don’t use the ‘Remember me’ option on websites. You should control a site, not the other way round.
- Don’t use your password on a computer you don’t control. You don’t know if it can store it and read it.
- Don’t go to websites where you type in your password in open or public Wifi networks. They’re not secure.
- Don’t type your password into any site you’ve reached by clicking on an email link. It could be a phishing scam.
- Change your password regularly. Especially if you think someone knows it.
Using social media websites safely
Social networking sites rely on connections and communications across the internet. So the sites want you to give them personal information.
People might not think twice about giving out this sort of information online because:
- the internet makes them feel anonymous
- there’s no physical contact, so they get a false sense of security
- they only write things with their friends in mind, forgetting that others might read them
- they want to impress potential friends with details of where they work or how much they earn.
Most people who use these sites don’t pose a threat. But there are some people who might use them to find things out about you. Predators might start building relationships with people online and then convince them to meet up in person. This could lead to dangerous situations.
People can also use your personal information for a ‘social engineering’ attack. Using information you put online (like where you live, what you’re interested in and who your friends are), someone could pretend to be a trusted friend. Or convince you that they’ve got the authority to get hold of other personal or financial information.
Attackers may also use these websites to spread Trojans, worms or viruses. Be extra wary of sites that offer applications developed by third parties. Attackers might be able to create customised applications that look innocent. But actually they’re infecting your computer or sharing your information without you realising it.
Think of social networking sites as bars where everyone can hear what everyone else is saying. There are some things you just wouldn’t say if everyone was listening.
Social media sites need to check you are who you say you are when you create an account. They do it by asking for personal information. Don’t use your real birthday. It’s just another bit of information people can collect about you. (You could use 1 January and then the year you were born. Or something similar.)
Don’t post when you’ll be, or are, away on holiday. And don’t post pictures to social media sites while on your trip.
Check your privacy settings on all your social media accounts because they keep changing the default settings.
Be careful about using third-party applications on social media sites. Criminals could get access to your personal profile information with a virus.
Keep track of comments and photos other people post that feature you. Make sure you’re comfortable with of the amount of information that’s being posted about you. And limit what you’re posting about yourself.
If you have children, keep track of what they’re doing online. And talk to them about online security. To find out more, go here.
And you can get help from the Information Commissioner's Office.