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Protecting Your Personal Details Online

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When it comes to internet safety protecting your personal details is of paramount importance. Online crime is escalating at a rapid rate thanks to our increased dependence on the internet for shopping, personal finances and entertainment. More and more of us are conducting the majority of our shopping and personal finances online; partly for ease of use and partly because of the huge cost reductions the online world facilitates. However our personal details can often become targeted by less scrupulous individuals so we need to exercise caution when we browse and buy online. With that in mind we’ve put together a quick guide to protecting your personal details online.

Your computer
Your computer is one of the easiest targets for people to steal confidential information – if you leave it unprotected that is. If you don’t run home security software then your computer is incredibly vulnerable to attacks; both to steal your personal details and to damage the computer itself. Use reputable software and make sure that it has the following features: Online support, regular updates, virus scanner, virus removal, quarantine function, remote access blockers and software updater’s. These are essential e-safety features and you shouldn’t be without them. Finally make sure your browser is up to date and that you password protect any files you do not want falling into a third parties hands. This will create an additional layer of defence.

Browsing
Browsing safely is key to keeping your personal details safe. Stay away from any site that feels at all dodgy and you should be kept relatively safe. If you search through one of the established search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) then you should mainly find reputable sites. Be wary of clicking on links and advertisements from other sites though as there I no guarantee that these will send you to a reputable retailer – even if the site you started on is itself reputable. Always avoid downloading from or inputting your personal details on any site that you do not recognise and/or trust.

Shopping
Shopping online is incredibly rewarding and we wouldn’t want to discourage you from it. However you need to make sure that the company you are dealing with are doing everything they can to secure your personal information. Initially you should take the time to read their privacy policy and terms and conditions of use as this will give you a good idea of what security measures they take. Then when it comes to actually making a purchase you should be careful to check that a padlock symbol appears in your address bar and that the URL begins https:// as this means your personal information is being encrypted. Always be wary of sites that have offers that seem too good to be true as these often will be scams that will charge you repeatedly on your credit card. If you can try and use alternative payment methods such as PayPal as these provide additional security and recourse should you suffer at the hands of an unscrupulous vendor.

Personal finances
Many of us now use the internet for a variety of personal finance tasks such as online banking, policy renewals, vat returns etc. These systems are usually fairly secure but you still need to make sure that you are doing your utmost to protect your personal details. Your computer security is the first step but you also want to ensure that you are choosing strong passwords and that every account you use has a separate password. A password should be a string of seemingly random letters and numbers with capitals and lower case letters mixed in to ensure that it is as hard as possible to crack. Change your passwords regularly and make sure that you use different passwords for all your needs. Finally, if you are using your computer for personal finance documents it is a good idea to store them on a separate USB so that they are not constantly attached to your computer.

Jane writes about various internet safety topics for both children and parents. If you are interested in more information on this topic please see the Vodafone internet safety guide which provides a wealth of information and support.

 

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