Protecting yourself from getting hacked can take just a few minutes if you follow these quick steps: Get yourself decent anti-virus and firewall software – and turn it on! Some insurance companies and banks only cover fraud and theft if you can prove you had security in place. Back-up important data on an external hard drive or USB stick. If there's something that you'd be gutted to lose, keep copies. Be picky about which companies you share your personal info with – your data's only as secure as they are. Be very suspicious of emails or messages asking for login or account info, and check that any links are legit (i.e. not hsbo-bank.co.uk) and secure (https not http). These are known as phishing scams and are one of the easiest ways for passwords to be nicked. Most cloud storage is snoopable: encrypt the content you keep in them or check out ‘Dropbox’ (which claims to encrypt all files stored). Only log in to accounts from your own gadgets. If you do have to use a public or shared device, make sure you log out afterwards. Where possible, buy online using a credit card. If you're a victim of fraud, you'll have a better chance of getting your money back. If you can't get accepted for a credit card, use a prepaid card instead – while this won't insure your stolen cash, hackers will only have access to what you've topped up rather than your entire bank balance. If there's something you really, really don't want anyone else to know or get hold of, don't put it online! When it comes to passwords, use a combination of 3 random words, and add/replace letters with numbers or punctuation marks (zero instead of o, or 3 for E). Never use real answers in security questions – make up memorable answers that will only make sense to you. Change passwords at least a couple of times a year: get fresh ones, and don't just swap around the ones you already use. Get LastPass – seriously. It's all very well (and essential) having long and unique passwords for each site, but you'll never remember them without a password manager. LastPass is the most popular free solution for storing them all and integrates easily as a browser extension (and app). Use two-step verification if it's available for logins: if someone signs in from a new or unauthorised device, they'll have to provide a code that's only sent to your phone or email address. Don't use an easily-guessed email – like firstname.lastname@example.org – for logging into sites holding sensitive information (like online banking). Use alias emails that you can simply forward to your main account. In fact, use alias emails for all aspects of your online life: work, personal stuff, paid surveys, memes, whatever. This will limit what info hackers can access (and how much spam you get). Forced to enter an email address but worried you're going to be inundated with spam afterwards? Use one you can burn when you're done! You can create a temporary email that will combust after use over on guerrillamail.com. If your email account displays the location of the last login (Gmail does – check the bottom of the screen), look at it every now and again to spot any rogue usage. Check your privacy settings on social media: don't broadcast every update to the whole world. Log out every now and again to view your profile the way strangers see it. Don't accept friend requests from folk you don't know. Enable login alerts to get beeped when someone signs into your social media accounts. On Facebook, you can turn it on through Security Settings (approve your own devices so you don't get pointless alerts). Be careful what you share on social, especially your date of birth or any info banks use to verify accounts or lost passwords. Review app permissions: whenever you log in to another site using Facebook or add an app to your account, you've opened another door for personal data leakage. See what info you're handing out here. Always lock your phone using either fingerprint recognition, a secure PIN (not your birthday) or a unique gesture. Know how to wipe your gadgets if they're lost or stolen. Put a sticker over any unused webcams (hackers could be watching you). Read app permissions to see exactly what data you're allowing them to access before you install them. Install Find My iPhone (Apple) or make sure you've set up Find My Device on Android. Prey is also excellent for tracking, locking, and wiping missing phones and laptops. Always password-protect your home Wi-Fi network and change the default admin password on your internet routers. Making sure your Wi-Fi is password-protected also happens to be a good way to improve your broadband speed. Remember that public Wi-Fi has more holes than Swiss cheese – everything you do while connected can be spied on. Only use well-known or reputable Wi-Fi hotspots – setting up fake free networks is a common sting. Turn off sharing, so that things you usually connect or share on a secure network (files, devices, or logins) aren't discoverable. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to 'cloak' yourself and your data. Only visit secure sites: check for the padlock and 'https' in the address bar.
PCSO Stephen Blake
Latchford Beat Team