The internet is a great place for communicating, research, and playing games, but it is also important to think about your safety and security while online. How can you keep your information secure and private? How can you avoid being hacked and how can you spot a virus?

This section of hot topics aims to give you advice and information on your device’s security issues in a practical and simple way, which will hopefully make your online experience easier and more enjoyable. 

To help keep your information private and your devices secure, follow these top 5 tips:

  1. Be careful what you share online: 
    Don’t reveal too much personal information while on social networks, as it can make it easier for people to track where you are or to learn more about you. Before posting a picture, think about what information it gives away eg a school uniform can give away where you go to school, and details in the background can help someone identify landmarks and locations. The more information you publicly share online, the more opportunities someone has to impersonate you. Protect your privacy on social networks bydownloading these checklists from the UK Safer Internet Centre.
  2. Keep passwords secure:
    Too many people use the same password for many different accounts and they are often very easy to guess, eg 12345678, the word ‘password’ or another popular word or phrase (eg ‘starwars’). To prevent other people guessing your password, accessing your personal information or ‘hacking’ your account, make sure your passwords are secure and that you don’t share your passwords with anyone else. For strong passwords, combine letters (of lower case and capitals), numbers and symbols, or even use a sentence as your password. 
  3. Install anti-virus protection and firewalls on your devices:
    To ensure your device is secure, you should install anti-virus protection on your computer, tablet and phone and keep it regularly updated to ensure they are protected against the latest viruses. Firewalls are also helpful as they create a barrier between your device and the internet. It limits both incoming and outgoing information, and keeps your device safe from intruders. It can’t stop you from downloading spyware, but it can alert you if a program is sending information over the internet without your permission.
  4. Don’t reply to spam:
    If you have an email address, you are more than likely to receive spam/junk email; messages that have been sent to a large number of people to advertise a product or service.  If you reply to the messages, click on a link in them or click 'unsubscribe', you are merely informing the spammer that your email is a valid one. It is best to delete spam, or to ‘report as spam’ so that your email provider’s spam filters are trained to know what spam/junk emails look like.
  5. Have different accounts and don’t open links/attachments from unknown sources:
    One way to avoid receiving spam is to have different email accounts. You could have one account that you use regularly that you share with friends and family and another email account that you use if you need to sign up for anything online. It is best not to open links or attachments from unknown sources as they may contain viruses or link you to a webpage that automatically downloads code or files that infect your device.