UK’s National Cyber Crime Unit’s five top tips for staying safe online

The UK’s National Cyber Crime Unit has offered five top tips for staying safe online. We present them here.

  • Keep you computer current with the latest patches and updates

“By regularly updating your computer, you block attackers from being able to take advantage of software flaws that they could otherwise use to break into your system.”

“While keeping your computer up-to-date will not protect you from all attacks, it makes it much more difficult for hackers to gain access to your system, blocks many basic and automated attacks completely, and might be enough to discourage a less-determined attacker to look for a more vulnerable computer elsewhere.”

  • Make sure your computer is configured securely

“Configuring popular internet applications such as your Web browser and email software is one of the most important areas to focus on.”

“The strongest security settings will give you the most control over what happens online but may also frustrate some people with a large number of questions or the inability to do what they want to do. Often security and privacy settings can be properly configured without any sort of special expertise by simply using the help feature of your software or reading vendor’s website.”

  • Choose strong passwords and keep them safe

“Strong passwords have eight characters or more and use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols (e.g., # $ % ! ?).”

“Avoid using any of the following as your password:  your login name, anything based on you personal information such as your last name, and words that can be found in the dictionary. Keep your passwords in a safe place and try not to use the same password for every service you use online.”

“Change passwords on regular basis, at least every 90 days. This can limit the damage caused by someone who has already gained access to your account. If you notice something suspicious with one of your online accounts, one of the first steps you can take is to change your password.”

  • Protect your computer with security software

“Security software essentials include firewall and antivirus programs. A firewall is usually your computer’s first line of defense-it controls who what can communicate with your computer online.”

“The next line of defense is your antivirus software, which monitors all online activities such as email  messages messages and Web browsing and protects an individual from viruses, worms, Trojan horse and other types malicious programs.”

  • Protect your personal information

“Exercise caution when sharing personal information such  as your name, home address, phone number, and email address online. To take advantage of many online services, you will inevitably have to provide personal information in order to handle billing and shipping of purchased goods. Since not divulging any personal is rarely possible, keep an eye out for phony email messages, don’t respond to email that ask for personal information, when visiting a website, type the address directly into the web browser rather than following a link within an email or instant message, pay attention to privacy policies on websites and in software [as] it is important to understand how an organisation might collect and use your personal information before you share it with them, and guard your email address.”