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Staying safe online

Just what is internet safety? Having a password longer than five characters with the number ‘1’ at the end, right?

Well, no actually. It’s a little bit more complicated than that, as I found out when speaking with our very own Information & Cyber Security Analyst, Caroline O’Brien.

It’s Caroline’s job to promote security culture and online awareness across the bank to ensure everyone is up to date with the latest threats and how to mitigate them.

I asked her to make a list of things we should consider while making the most of the World Wide Web.

Check your settings

Sometimes when we’re posting on social media, we don’t realise that everyone can potentially see it and share it, not just our friends. And considering that we often post personal, sensitive information, it’s really important that we control exactly who’s looking at it.

For online fraudsters, information is money. Once they have certain details, even seemingly harmless details, they can start trying to hack your bank account, so it’s really important to have this locked down. It’s easy to change your privacy settings, just select ‘friends only’ on social media accounts and this will stop your personal details from being broadcast across the web.

Search for yourself online

It sounds trivial, but it’s important to keep track of where your name and information is being held. So you can always search for yourself online, and if you find anything you don’t like, you can request for it to be taken down.

The new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) guidelines state that companies or organisations must ask for you agreement before they can collect or store your personal data, so if you haven’t given consent, tell them to take it down!

Deactivate old accounts

We’ve all done it, made accounts on social media, signed up to receive updates from companies, entered competitions. Then we quickly forget they exist. Their correspondence just gets lost in the mass of spam emails we get everyday. But your information is still out there on these systems, potentially easy pickings for fraudsters.

Take control of your data with a little inventory check to see what you’re set up on. Which companies are emailing you, and how do they have your details? Do you have old social media accounts or subscriptions? Are you using them anymore? If not, then delete them, it’s always good to be vigilant about who has your details.

Make the most of your time online

In my job, I’m always telling people ‘don’t do this,’ and ‘make sure you don’t do that.’ But there’s also a positive aspect too. The internet is a fantastic place to promote yourself, learn new skills and even make a living.

You can share your talents online and make a positive impact on the internet and on other people’s lives. If you’re a passionate cook, why not write a recipes blog? If you’re a fitness fanatic, why not post your workout plans? If you’re a fervent photographer, why not share your work on Instagram? Make the most of your time and spread positivity online!

Think before you post

This one seems obvious, but it’s easy for what you’re saying online to be misinterpreted. Be it posting on social media or sending an email to a colleague, a smiley face emoji or a slight change in the language could completely change the tone of what you’re saying. So before you share, just imagine how it will be perceived.

Be mindful not to spread fake news. Is your source of information legitimate? Have you checked the facts before you post? You can damage your own online reputation by posting content that may not necessarily be true. Try using the ‘THINK’ model if you’re not sure. Ask yourself, is it True? Helpful? Illegal? Necessary? Kind?

Password management

Password management is huge, and I don’t think people think about it enough. It’s like with your house, you wouldn’t keep your key under the doormat everyday and just hope that no one looks underneath it.

Try using memorable phrases so you won’t forget, but nothing anybody would easily guess. It’s also worth setting up two factor identification, which means when you try to access your account, they’ll send a code to your phone. This extra security really can be the difference between being safe online, and not being.

Online reputation

All of these tips are to protect your online reputation. This is how people come to know you online, and in the digital age, how you’re perceived online can be just as important as how you’re perceived offline.

Life has now moved online. And the internet is a wonderful place. It’s full of information, laughter, learning, love. It’s a place where you can promote and improve yourself. But if you’re not careful, it can also be a dangerous place too, so follow these guidelines to use the internet safely!

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