Articles

Stay safe online with these top cyber security tips

7 minutes

Think you know all the rules when staying secure online? We asked a cyber security expert for the biggest gaps in people’s knowledge when it comes to internet safety, with tips on understanding the risks and how to protect yourself.

  • How to manage your passwords efficiently
  • What to look out for when using public Wi-Fi
  • Cyber security and the Internet of Things

Who's watching your online activities?

In this LV= life insurance article, following on from recent cyber security breaches that have been in the news, we’re looking into what people can do to protect themselves and their information online.

According to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2018, 43% of businesses have reported some kind of breach or attack in the last 12 months, with the average breach causing £1,230 of damage – rising to £9,260 when just large businesses are accounted for. [1]

On a personal level, 17.4 million people in the UK experienced cybercrime in 2017, according to the 2017 Norton Cyber Security Insights Report. [2] So is there a way to keep both your personal information and your internet-enabled devices safe from a cyber attack? We spoke to Rob Pritchard, founder of The Cyber Security Expert, for his expert tips on staying safe online.

Understanding cyber security risks


‘People assume that it is really easy to hack devices – that it’s magic and you can just wave a wand and hack someone’s device,’ says Rob. ‘The truth is, it’s not that easy.’

He adds that this stems from a gap in public knowledge, with the general population sometimes struggling to understand the difference between good and bad cyber security practices.

‘The NCSC (National Cyber Security Council, a government organisation set up to make the UK the safest place to go online) is still relatively new and hasn’t been focusing on the general public just yet. People who work in offices may have had some type of training, but there are a vast number of others out there who haven’t. And even if they do work in offices, their employer might not have provided the relevant training.’

But that doesn’t mean it’s hard to get the basics right, as Rob demonstrates with the following three tips.

1. Use a password manager 

A recent study by Cyber Aware found that 27% of Britons reuse the same password across a number of accounts. [3] But having a different password for each account doesn’t require a photographic memory, with password managers able to do the legwork for you.

‘They are a very good offering and make it really easy,’ explains Rob. ‘I’d recommend using one such as 1password. All you have to do is remember the password to the password manager and it takes care of all your passwords for you, and they’ll all be unique.’


2. How to use public Wi-Fi sensibly and securely

When connecting to public Wi-Fi, be it in a coffee shop, hotel or on public transport, you aren’t running any particular risk of being hacked.

‘But there are a few warning signs to look out for, and this is true at any time,’ says Rob. ‘If you visit a site that is normally fine, and you get a warning saying that ‘this site is insecure’ or ‘this site isn’t trusted’, then stop. Don’t bother doing what you’re doing on that network and get off it. That can be someone trying to interfere with your network.

‘Modern browsers and devices are really good at telling you there’s a problem, but people don’t really understand it and often ignore it, clicking through anyway.

‘The reason that there are warnings about public Wi-Fi is that anyone can join it, which makes it easier for a hacker to interfere with your network traffic. But those aren’t the threats you should worry about. The bigger threats are the crimes that have a larger impact, like phishing emails that try to get your banking credentials.’

3. Beware of cheap Internet of Things imitations

According to YouGov research, 10% of Brits now own a smart speaker with an automated personal assistant, such as Amazon’s ‘Alexa’ or Google’s ‘Assistant’ built in [4]. And, as the number of internet-connected devices in the home increases, Rob believes some of the cheaper copies could pose privacy risks.

‘If people have cheap webcams or cheap home assistants that aren’t very well secured, people could just listen in or watch them,’ he explains. ‘There are some technical reasons why that’s currently hard to do, but it could get easier.

‘There’s a proliferation of really cheap devices that are very poorly configured with no way of updating them if there’s a problem. Products from reputable brands, such as Amazon and Google, will be robust and well maintained, but I think there’s going to be a proliferation of products that don’t meet those standards.’

Ultimately, having an understanding of what is and isn’t safe behaviour should help you steer clear of any cyber security breaches or attacks. Using different passwords for all online accounts and heeding warnings from your internet browser about ‘insecure’ or ‘untrusted’ sites should also help to keep you safe. And although available at a significant discount from the established brands, a knock-off internet-enabled device could end up costing you more in the long run.

Citations

[1] Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute, University of Portsmouth, Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2018,  UK GOV Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/702074/Cyber_Security_Breaches_Survey_2018_-_Main_Report.pdf

[2] Norton, 2017. Norton Cyber Security Insights Report 2017 Global Results, Norton By Symantec. https://www.symantec.com/content/dam/symantec/docs/about/2017-ncsir-global-results-en.pdf

[3] Cyber Aware Blog, 2018. The ‘One Reset’ you need to protect your emails from hackers, HM Government.  https://www.cyberaware.gov.uk/blog/one-reset-you-need-protect-your-emails-hackers

[4] Feldman, Russel 2018.  Smart speaker ownership doubles in six months, YouGov, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2018/04/19/smart-speaker-ownership-doubles-six-months