Information sent on behalf of Cheshire Constabulary
We’re living in a world where we are rapidly becoming more and more reliant on digital technology, having to adapt quickly to the many daily tasks we do. Almost nine out of 10 of us use the internet every day on either smartphones, tablets or mobiles.
We’re not the only ones embracing new technology. It’s not gone unnoticed by the criminal fraternity and organised crime groups, who are also adapting how they operate. Cybercrime now accounts for almost half of all recorded crime. It can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, job or location – it’s probably not a case of ‘if it will happen to you’ but ‘when it will happen to you’.
More than 80 per cent of known cyber attacks can be avoided by following five simple rules – we’ve called them the 5 Cs – which will help you with your online safety and security.
Create a strong password.
Easy to guess and simplistic passwords such as 'Password2021' or the name of your favourite sports team, are a dream come true for cyber criminals as it makes your confidential information much easier to access via the internet.
One of the systems criminals like to gain access to is your email account, because from there, they can access many of your other personal accounts linked to that address - potentially leading to identity theft.
That's why it's important to make it as difficult as possible for criminals by creating a strong password and enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) on email accounts, online banking or wherever you see the option.
Three Random Words
To create a strong password try using three random words that mean something to you, but not easily guessed by anyone else, replacing some of the letters with symbols and numbers will add complexity to the password.
Choose, use and protect passwords carefully and use a different one for every online account in case one or more get hacked. Don’t use the same password for everything - #thinkrandom. The longer the password, the stronger they are. Keep your passwords secret, never give them to anyone.
For more information visit the National Cyber Security Centre website.
Enable two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication (often shortened to 2FA) provides a way of 'double checking' that you really are the person you are claiming to be when you're using online services, such as banking, email or social media. It is available on most of the major online services.
When setting up 2FA, the service will ask you to provide a 'second factor', which is something that you (and only you) can access. This could be a code that's sent to you by text message, or that's created by an app.
Regularly update your anti-virus/malware software. Save important documents and photos on an external hard drive or the Cloud. Make sure you download the latest operating software, browser and app updates as they contain vital security updates that help protect your device from hackers, viruses and identity theft. Not keeping your software up-to-date can result in serious issues, which can not only affect your computer, but your personal security too.
Please see the National Cyber Security Centre website for more information on protecting your computer from viruses and spyware.
Do not share personal information or passwords on social networking sites, emails or in person. Know who you are talking to, as criminals can befriend you and get access to a lot of personal information such as where you go to school, where you work, when you are away on holiday – all of which could help them gain access to more valuable data.
Check your settings regularly as sometimes sites will change their settings - what you think is private can suddenly become public. As well as cyber criminals, other people who may be interested in your digital footprint are:
• future employers
Links sent via emails and texts are a common way hackers get malicious software onto people’s devices to steal your identity or your money. Think before you click and make sure the source is genuine as many can look like the real thing. Only open attachments if they’re sent from someone you know and trust.
For more information on protecting your computer and safe internet use visit the National Cyber Security Centre website.
Always check that the website address of the site you are using is correct. Cyber criminals can create fake website addresses which look very similar to the real website address, such as misspelling the name of the company.
Get ahead of the cyber criminals and wherever possible type the address of the website directly into the browser or search for the website using a search engine.
A website can still be a fake website if it has a padlock and/or ‘https’ in the address bar. These simply mean data is encrypted when transferred over the internet, not that the website itself is trustworthy.
Virtual private networks (VPNs)
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service you can sign up to in order to improve your online privacy. By securing your connection to the internet, a VPN can help protect your online data (usernames, passwords, bank details) from prying eyes.
Think of a VPN as a tunnel between you and the secure website you’re trying to access.
VPNs are especially useful if you use public Wi-Fi hotspots, where you can’t be sure if the network is legitimate or if a criminal is tracking your online activity. If you’re accessing the web on a secure, trusted network at home, there is less reason to use a service such as a VPN.
Before committing to a particular brand, it is important to thoroughly research the product on offer - looking at reviews and what other people are saying about a particular VPN is a good place to start. A safe VPN can connect you to the internet securely, a bad VPN may share your data with third parties as a way to make a profit – always read the terms and conditions to see what, if anything, they do with your data.
More information on this is available on the National Cyber Security Centre website.
Message sent by
Jamie Carpenter (Cheshire Police, Chester LPU, Great Boughton PCSO)