Hugh Boyes, a cyber security expert at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), has the following suggestions for staying safe online.
- Do not use an account with administrative privileges for normal day-to-day activities and web browsing – accounts with lower privileges warn you if a program tries to install software or modify computer settings thus allowing you to decide whether the proposed action is safe.
- Ensure that your operating system and application software is up-to-date – many of the patches issued are to patch security vulnerabilities, the quicker these are patched the lower the risk that your computer can be compromised through known vulnerabilities where fixes are available. This should include up-to-date anti-malware software.
- Take care when downloading and installing software, if it is free or is not from a well-recognised and trustworthy brand there is a risk that the software may include features that spy on you (the user), enable unsolicited advertising or install harmful software on your computer.
- Treat with caution unsolicited emails containing attachments or hyperlinks (particularly shortened links), many phishing attacks attempt to trick you into opening a file loaded with malware or to visit a site which runs malicious scripts on your computer
- Apply common sense (due diligence), if an email offer looks too good to be true, the prices on a website are abnormally low or you receive an unsolicited telephone call offering computer support – e.g. from someone claiming to be from Microsoft – then it is likely that you are the target of a scam.