Privacy online has never been more important due to the vast range of services we use online today and the amount of personal information exchanged through these.
It is very easy to give away your personal information online and not really think about it, for example, on social media websites. Some websites ask for certain information even though it is not really necessary for the service that they are providing you with, so it's important to think carefully about what information you give, and to whom you give it to.
Some large and reputable companies you deal with might include government departments such as HMRC, banks, building societies and insurance companies, online retailers and many more. They are all subject to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but you should still be aware about how they use your data and who they might share it with.
Cookies are small information files that enable websites to perform faster as well as save login and preferences for you as a user. They can also be used to target adverts towards you based on your interests and this may be unwanted. Websites are obliged to ask you what your cookie preferences are the first time you visit them and you should make choices that you are comfortable with.
Cyber criminals could use your information in order to steal your identity, blackmail you, send you unwanted adverts, or use information on your activities and movements against you for example. Protect yourself and your information by following these tips:
- Anti-virus and Firewall software will prevent viruses such as spyware and adware getting on to you device. Make sure you enable automatic updates on your anti-virus package so you are protected against the latest threats.
- Select privacy and cookie options for the web browser that you use. Here are instructions on how to set these up for the most popular web browsers:
- Secure your user accounts with strong passwords using three random words, the longer the better. A strong password is especially important for your primary email account as you will likely use it as a “username” for lots of online services.
- Enable 2FA for all services which offer it. More information on 2FA and how to set it up for popular services can be found on the NCSC’s Two Factor Authentication article.
- Use an up to date browser. Old browsers will not have up to date features to protect you from unsafe websites and may have their own software vulnerabilities. You can check if your web browser is up to date by visiting the manufacturer’s website support pages, or by visiting www.updatemybrowser.org
- Check the address bar to make sure you are on the correct website you intended to visit. A good indicator that you are on a safe website is that it will start with “https”.
- Only use a secure and trusted device. Never use shared computers to type in sensitive information on such as bank details. Make sure you log out of websites before closing the browser as this does not always happen automatically.
- Avoid using free public Wi-Fi if you can as cyber criminals can create rogue Wi-Fi hot spots and then see the information being sent and received by your device.
- Check what information you share online via social media platforms. Make sure your social media accounts are set to private so that your information is not available to everyone on the internet. Be careful with new friend requests and make sure they are genuine before accepting them.
- Be wary of emails from what might look like a reputable retailer that you have purchased from in the past. Don’t click on links or attachments in emails that you are not expecting. Read our Phishing (email) and Smishing (text message) guidance for more information on what to look out for.
- Send suspicious texts to 7726 and phishing emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition to selecting privacy options, you can also select privacy options for each app on your device’s settings or in the app itself. This is good to review on mobile devices as you should only ever allow an app to access what it needs to perform the way in which you need to use it.