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5 pointers on avoiding cyber crime

Astle Paterson were recently paid a visit by Matt Hough-Clewes, also known as the Digital PCSO. He came to deliver presentations on cyber crime — a concept that may sound like it belongs in a dystopian science fiction thriller, but is in fact a real and current threat to anyone who’s connected to the internet… in other words, almost everyone.

Our staff had a wonderful and educational day with Matt, and we’d like to pass on some of his wisdom to you. Here are five important steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of cyber crime:

1: Install anti-virus software

This is one of the simplest and most effective ways to make your online experience safer. Not all anti-virus software requires a purchase; there are several options that are both trusted and free.

It’s important, however, to not rely too heavily upon anti-virus software to keep yourself secure. New viruses and malicious software are created every day for fraud and identity theft. Keep your anti-virus software up to date, and…

2: Stay away from shady websites

The best way to ensure you DO get a virus is by going to websites that aren’t on the level. Illegal streaming and torrenting sites are virtual breeding grounds for cyber criminals.

As tempting as it may be to watch the latest films without forking up for a Blu-ray player, all it takes to have your valuable information stolen or your computer compromised is putting yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

3: Have a secure password

Viruses aren’t the only tool at the cyber criminal’s disposal. Access to your accounts may be as simple as guessing your password, and no amount of anti-virus software will protect against that. The most secure passwords use mixed lower and upper case, numbers, and symbols. Pick a memorable phrase that uses these!

One 2017 study showed that the most commonly used (and therefore, worst) passwords included “123456” at #1, “password” at #2, and a newcomer, “starwars”, at #16. No matter how much you enjoyed The Last Jedi, it’s not worth putting yourself at risk.

4: Think twice before clicking

Cyber crime is becoming more varied and more sneaky, but a second look is often all it takes to avoid a scam. If you get an unusual email or message containing a link, use sound judgement rather than reflexively clicking it.

Here are some telltale signs that a message isn’t what it seems:

  • Brands which don’t match the email address
  • Spelling or grammatical errors
  • An offer that seems too good to be true
  • An unrecognised phone number or email address
  • The message comes with a warning from your email provider

5: Be skeptical, be smart

This attitude applies to all of the above steps. A skeptical, careful approach to your internet usage will help you prevent yourself being the next target of cyber crime. For a medium as expansive and constantly changing as the internet, there is no surefire way to keep yourself secure. So stay vigilant, and keep educating yourself.

Treat potential cyber crime the same way you would treat crime on the street.  Keep looking for articles such as this one to keep yourself up-to-date with the latest protective measures. Keep your friends and family safe too, by spreading the word!

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