Top tech tips for improving your online security

Don’t be complacent. Here are our top tips and advice on what you can do today to help get cyber-secure in 2020.

From installing the latest tools to help prevent identity theft and privacy breaches, to spotting the hallmarks of dirty tactics waged by savvy hackers, we cannot afford to get complacent in the perpetual tug-of-war to remain safe in the modern world of rapidly evolving technology.

Especially when handy guides such as this tell you how easy it is to bolster your defences. So, here are six quick steps you can take right now to help get cyber-secure in 2020.

Password protection

Allen keys are great for IKEA projects but your passwords shouldn’t be treated like one. Having different passwords for all your accounts is now a necessity. If you’re breached once, it can’t be repeated. Too much admin? Download a password manager to take the strain and keep safe (and not forgotten) all your passwords. It will find and encrypt all your passwords. You can also use your new best friend to auto-fill your username and passwords, leaving you with just one password to remember. And don’t forget – your passwords must regularly change and have capital letters, symbols, numbers and nothing memorable.

VPN shield

Get yourself a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to help provide a secure connection when you’re unsure of your public environment, like in a coffee shop. VPNs encrypt (scrambling a message or data to make it unintelligible to unauthorised users) and protect data exchanged over the network traffic and conceals your location. This doesn’t only provide a digital cloak of invisibility but can save you money too – if you’re a city-dweller and eyeing up holidays or insurance, you’re likely to be charged more. Most require paid subscriptions but transparent and reliable free VPNs are available, such as TunnelBear, Kaspersky and Avira, offering deals such as 500MB free a month.

Two-factor authentication

This increasingly popular approach adds a vital layer of protection to secure your accounts, going beyond the now simplistic approach of a one-layer username and password. The concept includes a master password or sign-in, followed by a one-off temporary code sent directly to the account holder. For example, some banks will only let customers sign in after sending an extra text message authentication that expires within a few minutes. Gmail, Evernote, and Dropbox have been early adopters. Some service you access through smartphone apps are also now asking for fingerprint identification or iris scanning as the second gateway. If this sounds unfamiliar, it’s time to check your apps.

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 Clear your cache

Deleting cookies shouldn’t just be a New Year’s resolution which lasts two weeks. Reducing your online footprint should be a regular routine, as your multi-device, synced-up browsing history could reveal sensitive personal information such as your home address. You could download an app which does this for you automatically in the background – a fit and forget approach suited for busy modern life – such as Cookie AutoDelete for Google Chrome.

Shopping

You may have saved £67 on that indoor drone you’ve always wanted but cancel any orders right now from shopping websites, particularly obscure outlets, with URLs ending in .net or .org. These are very rarely used by reputable retailers and are classic calling cards of illegitimate organisations. Plus – don’t save financial information. Make the effort each time to type out your details, no matter how tempting it might be to save your 16 digits for future.

Banking

Find out now if you’re with one of the most, or least, secure banks in the country. Consumer watchdog Which? regularly keeps track of the league table, carried out by independent security experts. Their 2019 list is here. Your habits are important too – you shouldn’t be online banking via open public wi-fi networks or hotspots. These are insecure and prone to unencrypted data being seized upon by fraudsters. Use a trusted private connection or 4G/5G – both will be encrypted.

Quickfire tips

 Secure your browser. Consider adblocker mobile apps and desktop plug-ins like HTTPS Everywhere.

  • Back-up your data. Consider external hard disks or cloud-based software to keep your important files out of reach of hackers. Hard disks can be goldmines for personal, sensitive data. Apps like BitLocker and FileVault provide automatic encryption
  • Operating system. Ensure automatic updates are enabled for your device.
  • Get our high-spec router. When you sign-up to our Hyperfast full-fibre broadband, being rolled out in rural areas of East Anglia, you’ll get our high-performance fibre Gateway Router, which offers WiFi Scheduling, firewall protection and provides you with a Hyperfast, future-ready broadband connection. Don’t forget – we also offer business packages offering additional support such as a faster call-out time and a higher traffic priority.

Lloyd Felton, chief executive of County Broadband, which is building new Hyperfast full-fibre broadband networks in over 50 villages across rural East Anglia, added: “We hope residents and businesses find our five quick steps helpful to strengthen their cyber-security in the ongoing battle to remain safe, vigilant and resilient online.”

You can find out if they’re in a village covered in our Hyperfast full-fibre rollout by using our postcode checker here.