We are all living our lives online. Social Media, banking, shopping, chatting with friends near and far, and interacting with government bodies is only set to increase as the world becomes more digital. Whilst this all makes life quicker, easier and the world smaller, it also poses opportunities for the villains in society and risks for all of us.
As a law firm, holding volumes of client monies and data, we are on the front line of the war against the cyber criminals and have safety procedures and regulations in place to help keep our clients safe. Whilst the same level of security may not be practical for all of our clients to safeguard their personal information and stay safe online, there are 10 simple steps that can be taken to minimise the risk at home. This is not designed to be a comprehensive guarantee of online security but sticking to some simple rules and being vigilant will help to ensure that you remain safe online and don’t get caught out.
- TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. We all know when something feels wrong or indeed when it sounds too good to be true, it often is and therefore your “feeling” about something is often a good test.
- YOU ARE IN CONTROL. Be confident that you have the right to refuse to give information either on the phone or in communication for your own security and protection. DO not feel embarrassed that you are refusing to “co-operate” with the nice sounding man on the other end of the phone. It is even ok to hang up, even if it does feel a bit rude. A genuine company will appreciate you being vigilant and will completely understand.
- NEVER share log in details, passwords, pins or any security information with anyone, whether verbally, in writing or in an email. Institutions will never ask you for these in full. Ask yourself is it right to give this information I am being asked for? If in doubt just don’t do it.
- NEVER assume a phone call or email is genuine. We all share certain information and in this day and age, and particularly with social media, it can be quite easy to piece together someone’s full name, address, date of birth and even a mothers maiden name, making it easy for fraudsters to be able to sound quite convincing as to who they are. REMEMBER, criminals can change the phone number displayed on your phone and the address that an email appears to be sent from. Do not assume they are necessarily genuine.
- AVOID PHONE SCAMS – Your bank will never ask you for your full password details or urgently ask you to transfer money from one account to another.
- AVOID TEXT SCAMS – if you receive a text telling you there has been fraud on your account the likelihood is it is a scam asking you to call a number given in the message. Ignore it. Contact your own bank directly using the normal number you would usually call or pop into your branch.
- AVOID EMAIL SCAMS – Phishing is seeking out your information and data with emails. Keep your junk filter to high and just ignore them, unless you believe you have inherited millions from a long lost African cousin, or that you have won a share of the world’s biggest lottery.
- INSTALL SECURITY ON YOUR COMPUTER. There is some great free security software available or this can be purchased for modest sums at local IT stores.
- NEVER download things you are not sure of and you don’t know where they have come from. Do not open attachments to emails unless you know the sender and content are genuine.
- ONLINE PASSWORDS. Change these frequently and never have the same password for multiple accounts. It may be a chore remembering them all but would you have one key for all the locks of your house, car and workplace? If you access one you can access them all.
The important thing to remember is to always remain vigilant online. Often, because the threat is not visible, people do not take the necessary precautions to safeguard themselves. If you were walking in a location known for pickpockets, you would regularly check your pocket or bag to make sure your wallet or purse was still there and be vigilant to the threat. Every time you log onto the internet you are entering the realm of modern day pickpockets who see YOU as a target.
Our private client solicitors work on the basis of "hope for the best but plan for the worst" to make sure you and your family are protected for whatever life throws at you and the same stands true for going online. Take steps and plan to protect yourself online and have peace of mind that whilst hopefully you will not be the victim of online fraud or a cyber-attack, you will have peace of mind that you have followed some simple steps to protect yourself.