Laptops and computers

Keep yourself safe when accessing the internet on your computer or laptop by using strong passwords, secure Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections and keeping your anti-virus software up to date.

Passwords

Create a strong password that is hard to guess and never share it with anyone. Avoid family names, pet names, sports teams or anything else that could be linked to your interests. Ideally, passwords should have a mix of letters (including capital letters), numbers and symbols, and be about eight characters long.

Do not use the same password for your computer, online banking, social media and apps that are important to you. If a hacker were to get just one password, they would then have access to everything else with the same password.

There are apps to remember all your passwords, especially useful if you use different password for each sites. These apps also come with risks. If someone can find out the password for this app, then they have access to all your other passwords.

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How to use passwords

Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and location services

Turn Bluetooth and Wi-Fi off when they are not being used – remember they can allow others to access your device.

Turn off location services when they are not being used: GPS data can tell websites and outsiders where you are.

Do not leave your laptop unattended at any time. You can install an app to help track the location of your laptop if it is lost or stolen. Avoid using these apps if you are in an unsafe relationship as they can be used by an abuser to track your location.

How to turn off Bluetooth

Suspicious links and attachments

Do not click on suspicious links or attachments in emails, even if they look like they’ve been sent to you by a friend. These links or attachments could place viruses, spyware or malware on your computer and compromise its security. Ask yourself, ‘Is this something my friend would send me? Does it sound like them?’ If in doubt, give your friend a call, or email separately just to check. Otherwise – delete the email!

Webcams

Do you have a webcam? While it is unlikely that it can be turned on without your consent, it is possible. The light on the webcam should come on if this happens, but this may not always be the case. For extra security, cover the webcam with some removable tape when you are not using it, or simply close your laptop.

System updates and backups

System updates are important. These often fix known issues and add new security features.

Install anti-virus and internet security software to protect you from viruses, spyware and malware. Keep your virus protection up-to-date: schedule automatic updates to do this. Make sure you choose a good product and still follow the strategies outlined above. Not all security software is 100% fail safe.

If you ever receive a message that your firewall has been turned off, then restart your device immediately. The firewall should reload on restarting. Computers and laptops have firewalls switched on running in the background, and they should already be installed on your device or they can be bundled with internet security software. Firewalls prevent hackers getting access to your device.

Back up your data: once a week is the golden rule. Back up your most important files to an external USB, and you can also back them up to the cloud, although you may need to pay for storage space if you have a lot of data to back up.

Good practice

Saving whatever you are working on at the moment, at least once every five minutes or so, is also a really good idea.

Log out of sites once you have finished using them rather than just closing them.

For more information about using your computers more safely and securely, visit our Web browsers page and Stay Smart Online.

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