We are spending an increasing amount of time online. There has been an increase in online financial transactions, as well as people trying out all sorts of apps and browser sites for the first time. Most websites aim to make their spaces as safe for users as possible. However, some fraudsters and scammers out there want to harvest data and access accounts to cheat you. A few simple cybersecurity steps can ensure that you are not laying yourself open to any risks.
Responsible website owners who value their customer's security will do everything they can to protect their sites from cyber-attack. The first thing to check is that any websites you visit are HTTPS, not simply HTTP. The S is essential; it stands for secure. The general recommendation is not to use sites that are not secured in this way. If you find yourself browsing an HTTP site, it might just be that it has been set up by an amateur and is not malicious. If there is one that you like to look at, the advice is not to enter any data there – and certainly no personal details. These sites are subject to attack and could easily have their databases breached. It is not that the sites themselves are bad, but that they could fall prey to cybercriminals.
These cybercriminals can use Malware to access your data. You might find you are visiting a site with a pop-up or link that you are encouraged to click on. They could also come to you via email or text. If you do not know who sent it, do not respond. These links are often sent looking as though they come from reputable companies, but on closer inspection, you can see that the root domain is wrong or that there are no contact details in the communication.
Do not click on unsolicited links. They will download viruses to your hard drive. The virus then infects your computer system, messes with the overall functionality and could destroy your files. The viruses then self-replicate and send themselves to your friends and colleagues, who repeat the cycle. A common place to find these are in the messaging apps we download, like Facebook Messenger. A message will be delivered, appearing to be from a friend, saying something like “I saw this and thought of you”. Unfortunately, the person's account will have been compromised by clicking on it, and so will yours.
Historically Macs have been much less prone to attack than PCs, but the scammers are getting more sophisticated. If you are PC-based, it is essential that you have anti-virus software installed to stop the attacks in their tracks.
If you are going to be trusting someone with your bank or other financial details, it is essential to conduct thorough reviews of the products or services that you are buying. You need to be sure that you are transacting with a safe and reliable partner. Trust Pilot is a great place to get a feeling of products, services, and online stores. These are peer-to-peer reviews and reflect personal experiences about the goods being sold. Some industries have websites that provide dedicated reviews for their sectors to keep the customers and operators safe. For example, the online gambling industry has professional review sites to keep players safe when they are visiting new online casino sites. These review sites also offer an overview of every aspect from payment methods accepted to games available, bonuses and speed of pay-outs.
If you are using public WIFI networks, never access confidential work files or use them for financial transactions. Hackers can intercept these networks, and they can collect data that you send and receive. You do not want them to be able to scrape your bank account details, credit card numbers or login details. Digital wallets like PayPal and prepayment cards are a much safer option, but to be safe, use your mobile data and not open unsecured WIFI networks.