How to stay safe and secure online

Top cyber security tips

As we store more and more personal information, photos and documents on our computers and smartphones it’s important to keep them secure. There are some simple steps we can take to make our devices more secure and reduce the risk of losing our data.

Durham Constabulary has a digital intelligence and investigation team which looks at cyber crime. We spoke to Katie Cain, a cyber prevent and protect officer, to find out more about cyber security and what the force does to investigate digital crimes.

Six tips for better security

Strong passwords are essential when it comes to preventing criminals from accessing our data. Two factor authentication can also help make logins more secure by requiring a second piece of information which criminals should not have access to, such as a finger print or a unique code.

  1. Ensure that you have a strong password. Don’t have your password set to ‘password’. Use a mix of lower case and upper case characters, numbers and special symbols. Don’t use personal information for a password, such as the name of a pet, which a criminal could find on social media.
  2. Set up two factor authentication. This means that logins require a second piece of information to login to an account, such as a fingerprint as well as a password. This adds an extra layer of security that criminals would need to bypass.
  3. Apply software updates to devices. Updates often include important security fixes and patches which address vulnerabilities that are found in software.
  4. Backup your data. Consider what important information you have stored on devices and what would happen if the device was stolen or susceptible to a cyber attack, such as ransomware. Backups can be made to a physical device, such as a USB hard drive, or to cloud storage.
  5. Use Wi-Fi safely. Public and free wireless networks are generally not as secure as home Wi-Fi networks.
  6. Look out for phishing emails. Criminals and fraudsters send emails which attempt to gain information from a victim. An email which looks genuine might offer a prize or claim that an online account has been locked down. The email could have a link to an online form requesting your personal or banking information.

Applying software updates to computers and smartphones

Software updates are issued by software developers and device manufacturers to patch security issues as well as improve the software. Updates are issued for desktop operating systems from Microsoft and Apple, as well as for smartphones and tablets. Even internet connected security cameras and smart speakers receive updates.

It’s easy to dismiss and ignore these updates, but they should be applied to ensure devices remain secure. Don’t forget to keep regular backups too before and after installing software updates.

More information and links

Get Safe Online: Information on protecting yourself and your devices

Top tips for staying secure online from the National Cyber Security Centre