New Year, New computer , same issues

I took the plunge a week ago and today had fibre broadband installed into my little abode. In practice, the fibre optic cabling ends at the nearest green BT box (“Cabinet”) and then it’s plain copper wire to my phone socket.

What does this mean? It means I can access websites and download information over twice the speed I had before, but does it make me any more secure? In essence, no. A connection to the internet whether it’s through your mobile phone, broadband, internet cafe, public wifi or fibre is just that, a connection.

The risk for many users starts when they open emails. If you see an email from a source you don’t recognise, treat with suspicion. Think the same way as any unsolicited mail that falls through the letterbox asking you to buy a product or participate in some research. Emails that seem to come from banks should be treated with extreme care, especially if you don’t bank with the institution in question or have never given them your email address!

It needn’t be an email from an unknown source either, it could be someone you know. One of the popular scams is an email from a friend who is apparently stranded abroad without cash/cards etc. This is typical where an email account has been hijacked and the emails are coming from a third party who’s only after your ‘generous’ money.

Another scam is the advance fee email; you are asked to help move money out of a war-torn or unstable country and all it takes is £100 or so to the agent then you would get a percentage of the mythical million pounds/dollars/euros. A similar scam involves a lottery where you were automatically allocated a winning ticket, now you just have to pay for the ticket to claim the lotto jackpot. If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is! I have just found an example of this type of message in one of my own email accounts!

Unsolicited surveys can also take you into areas where your credit/debit card details are requested to either verify your identity or as an account to deposit the prize draw winnings that you’ll automatically win. Again, don’t get caught by an opportunistic scammer.

What next? It is imperative that you have an anti-virus program installed on your PC, laptop or tablet. Many new laptops come with an anti-virus package either free for a year or as a small additional charge. There are also free versions that are as effective. If you have an Android-flavoured tablet or iPad then the Apple Store or Google Play resources will find you a free malware scanner and anti-virus app. Windows 8/8.1 users should try the Windows Store.

Where does that leave us? If you treat emails with the same suspicion as a dodgy looking envelope on the doormat then you’re most of the way towards not giving the scammers a hook into your computer (or bank account). The anti-virus/anti-malware programs can act as insurance against something nasty hidden in a document or video that you wouldn’t spot. They would also check any memory sticks or DVDs/CDs that are inserted into your laptop.  Remember, the internet does not respect national boundaries, you often have no idea from where in the world something has come from – or not even from this planet

Have a safe experience online in 2014.

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