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Keeping safe on the internet

You should always protect your computers and mobile devices with security software. No matter how careful you are on the internet, you can still end up with malware on your computer. Don’t rely only on the security protection provided by your operating system.

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Security software

Security suites offer layers of protection from viruses, spyware, scams and spam. The firewall and live browsing features like anti-phishing are the first layer. This layer stops malicious programs from getting on your system. The second layer is the malware detection and removal, this alerts you to malicious software and removes it. The third layer is the firewall again, it stops any unauthorised transmission of your personal data off your computer.

We’ve tested security suites so you can compare them.

Security suites can seem complicated, but they are actually quite easy to use:

  1. Pick a security suite that suits you. For a comparison of security suites, see our test.

  2. Make sure all software on your system is up to date. This includes your operating system.

  3. Install the suite.

  4. Set up regular updates. A suite needs to download updates, so it can protect against the latest malware. Try scheduling these updates for when your computer will be on but you’re not likely to be using it, as these updates can slow down your computer.

  5. Schedule automatic scans. You should run a full system scan once a week. You should also schedule these scans when your computer is on but you aren’t likely to be using it.

  6. If children will be using the computer, turn on parental controls. This prevents access to websites with adult content.

Security suites are also available for mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Make sure to get a security suite that is compatible with your device, not all suites work on all mobile operating systems. Mobile security software often has an option that lets you backup all the critical data from your device, such as contacts, on to Cloud storage.

If you’re a dab hand with technology, you can install individual programs to do the same job. The key pieces of software you need to protect your system are a firewall and an antivirus program. Make sure the programs you choose won’t conflict with each other, and remember to keep them up to date.

Learn more about security software.

VPNs

There is no such thing as private on the internet, however, VPNs can help disguise your identity by changing the IP (Internet Protocol) address your computer is using.

They are useful when connecting to a public network, such as a café’s WiFi, as they can prevent hackers from accessing your computer through that network. You should always use a VPN if you are accessing a bank’s website while on a public network. VPNs also help get around geoblocking, where certain content is blocked from a particular region.

We’ve tested VPNs so you can compare them.

Here’s how to use a VPN on a public network:

  1. Install the VPN on your computer or mobile device.

  2. If you can, turn on the VPN before connecting to the network, if not turn on the VPN immediately once connected.

  3. You are now ready to browse anonymously.

To check a VPN is disguising your IP, you can check by googling “what is my ip” and your IP will show up in a white box at the top of the page. Once you’ve turned on the VPN, check your IP again and you should see that it has changed.

Learn more about VPNs.

Scams

Scams are a big threat on the internet, and there are plenty out there. Here are a couple of tips to help keep you safe from scams:

  • Don’t reply to unsolicited emails, even if the email is addressed to you by name.

  • Don’t open attachments from people you don’t know.

  • When paying online make sure the website is secure by checking the URL (web address) starts with “https” and there is a padlock appearing in the URL bar on your browser.

For more information on the different types of scams, check out our report on some common scams.

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