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Introduction to cyber security: stay safe online
Introduction to cyber security: stay safe online

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2 Staying safe online

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There are a number of things you can do to stay safe on the internet. Like almost all parts of life, although you hear terrible stories, most people never have serious problems online. By taking a few simple steps, you can make yourself and your computer much more secure.

Stay up to date

Out of date software is one of the biggest problems for computer users. Bugs that have been fixed in newer operating systems or applications may remain unresolved in previous versions, leaving you vulnerable. This is especially important in the case of operating systems, which are responsible for managing files and connecting to the internet.

Check to see if your operating system is being supported by regular updates. For example, for Microsoft software you can search for your operating system at: en-us/ hub/ 4095338/ microsoft-lifecycle-policy [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Many other applications, such as Microsoft Office, the Java programming language (used by a lot of websites), web browsers and so on, also require regular updating to fix security problems.

If you are using an old operating system that is not supported by its manufacturer, or if you need an application, but your current edition is out of date, it is well worth investing in updated software. First, though, check that your computer can run the updated software, if not, it might be time for a new computer. Or consider installing a new operating system such as a free Linux OS on older equipment. Remember to backup all your data and passwords first.

Do the basics

The basic check list:

  • set up a personal firewall
  • install an antivirus program (remember, Macs do need antivirus protection)
  • get used to making backups
  • set up your computer to require passwords to log in and when unlocking the screen
  • set up two-factor authentication for all important financial and social media sites
  • use a unique strong password for each website
  • use a password manager or encrypt your password folder
  • use hard disk encryption if you have it – especially on laptops.

It will take a couple of hours to perform these steps, but your computer will be significantly more secure.

Fix your email

Most email applications now come with junk mail screening. If it’s not already enabled – turn it on! Your mail program will scan incoming email looking for suspicious messages that might be trying to scam you – or are just annoying spam. It puts any suspect messages into a junk mail folder where you can examine them later, just in case any genuine messages were misfiled.

Most email programs will also let you train the screening process so that any messages that were missed can be treated as junk in the future.

In the next section, you’ll learn some tips to improve your web browser’s security.