5 ways to improve your online security

Don't know your VPNs from your VPLs? Mumsnet called in computer security expert Graham Cluley for a webchat, and we've pulled together his key recommendations. Stay safe, people.  

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1. If you do just one thing - get a password manager 

It'll stop you losing your mind trying to remember a bajillion passwords. 

Graham says: "The truth is that [if left to our own devices] most of us would either choose really dumb passwords (123456, password1, letmein, Orland0Bloom), re-use the same passwords on multiple sites, or fail to remember them. None of those are good options. Use a password manager to generate complex, long passwords.

"It's technically possible for a password manager to be hacked, or for the master password you chose to secure it to be cracked. But it's a much smaller risk than a site you are a member of being attacked, or the very real human risk that you will have accidentally slipped into poor password practices."

[Graham recommended LastPass, 1password, KeePass and Dashlane as Password Managers worth considering]

2. Writing down your password isn't actually the worst thing you could do

Graham says: "Most people have the wrong idea about password security. The biggest danger is that you re-use the same password on multiple websites.

"Picture this: if imaginary online store XYZ Inc gets hacked and their customer database of passwords is stolen, the first thing that the hackers will do is see if those same passwords will unlock victims' accounts on Amazon, eBay, Gmail, etc etc. You MUST have different passwords for different websites."

3. You can't rely completely on tech to keep you safe

Graham says: "There's no such thing as foolproof protection.

"Everybody, sadly, needs to keep their wits about them and take some responsibility for their online security, whether it be pausing before clicking on a link in an unsolicited email, hesitating about opening the PDF attachment you've just been sent out of the blue, or agreeing to let Microsoft update Windows.

"The problem is, fundamentally, a human rather than a technological one. And that's why it will never be solved. We can't roll out a security patch to people's brains."

4. Can you trust apps? Depends what you're downloading

Graham says: "Some apps are competently written; some have security holes. The challenge is determining which are which.

"Before installing an app, always check its popularity by looking at the number of reviews and rating. If it's a popular app, such as Instagram, but only has three reviews, then you are right to be suspicious!

"An additional level of protection you can deploy is a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This will encrypt all of your communications as they pass over the internet - meaning that hackers will have a hard time snooping on what you're doing when you use public Wi-Fi."

[PC Advisor recently reviewed and recommended a range of VPNs including AirVPN and NordVPN]

5. Go beyond parental controls to keep your kids safe

Graham says: "It's possible to filter content at the DNS (Domain Name System) level, using services such as OpenDNS. The beauty of doing it at the router or DNS level is that it will work not just for your desktops and smartphones, but also for your game consoles, TVs and anything else net-connected."

Internet safety doesn't stop at your computer - here are some golden rules for keeping your Apple device safe

  • Apply iOS updates when they become available
  • Don't jailbreak your iOS device (Find out on Macworld what jailbreaking is, if you don't know)
  • If the device is ever used on public Wi-Fi hotspots, make sure that it has a VPN to encrypt any communications. 

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For more on Internet Safety go to Graham's website at grahamcluley.com

Last updated: almost 3 years ago