Practical Tips to Protect your Personal Data Online


As technology becomes ever more part of our everyday lifestyle, so becoming more “tech savvy” and keeping your data and services safe becomes crucial.

Make no mistake, “they” are out to get you, so here are a few tips to help keep your equipment and data a little safer.

  • Be very aware that you, the user are the main anti-virus /anti malware device on your machine (Laptop/PC/Mac).
  • Realise that it is often your actions that is the main trigger source of infections/attacks on your machine.
  • Ensure you have a decent Anti Virus program installed and which is set up to run daily scans. Recommended programs are Kaspersky and Bit Defender. Note for home users there is a Bit Defender free option.
  • Also ensure you have a decent Anti Malware program installed. If it is not running continuously ensure you run a full scan once a week. Recommended option is Malware Bytes.
  • Never open email attachments or click on links in emails that you don’t recognise, irrespective of how enticing they may look or how curious you may feel. Scammers are getting more n more cunning in trying to entice users to click and install their software. Many sites are designed to spoof actual websites such as for banks etc. If an email looks unusual (odd address, links) or you don’t recognise it, be wary about responding or taking any action linked to this email. Never respond to an email requesting banking login details or calls for action about your email account. If not sure check with your IT department first.
  • If the mail contents are too good to be true then they usually are. Just delete the mails. Also never run a .exe or .bat file often inside ZIP files. Just delete. Anti virus/malware programs have no way of knowing if this is a virus until it is installed. By which time the damage is already done.
  • Never click on dodgy links to unknown websites. Often these are brought to your attention via dubious spam emails.
  • Always scan USB drives before accessing any data on them. Set your anti virus program to scan any removable drives upon attachment to your machine.
  • Be wary about inserting foreign unknown USB drives into your machine. These are one of the biggest source of viruses/malware.
  • Always select the advanced options when installing programs on your machine – avoid the “recommended” selection. Often “Bloatware/viruses” are hidden within software installation files and users are frequently tricked into installing programs they don’t need. So always carefully run installations slowly and check meticulously for any unnecessary options that you are being tricked into installing and deselect them.
  • Install new programs reluctantly. Check for programs you don’t need and uninstall them.
  • Use POP up Ad blockers with your browsers to block irritating adverts. 
  • Check for and disable browser add ons. They can create unexpected and dangerous behaviour with internet browsing.
  • Ignore any unexpected and unknown warnings that suddenly pop up on your computer. E.g. warnings about viruses, machine problems etc unless you recognise the source of these warnings – e.g from your anti virus program. Rather don’t do anything and get someone who understands IT systems better, to check.
  • Use a secure, non-obvious password for your machines and website accesses. At least 14 characters long with a mixture of capitals, numbers, lower case letters and symbols etc. No names, birth dates, etc.
  • Never access secure websites from unknown, unsecure machines. I.e. it would be very risky accessing your bank account from an Internet café.
  • Always back up your critical data remotely from your machine. Use something like Google or One drive to synchronise data and keep a cloud based copy. Ransom ware viruses can encrypt your data files and then hold you to “ransom” in order to access the data. If you don’t pay all data is lost unless you have a backup.
  • Resist being tricked into viewing websites from social media apps such as FaceBook and Twitter where you have to “like”, install or give information, before you can view the site. Facebook is notorious for this.
  • Create your own “don’t care online profile” with its own email account, e.g. gmail to use for signing up to newsletters, websites etc or where you are forced to logon with personal details before you can access the information/data. Never use your personal or company details unless you are happy that the site you are signing up for is legit and you are happy with them having this information. This will help keep spam away from your more important email accounts.
  • Accept that receiving spam is part of having email. It is far better to get some spam and all legitimate emails, as opposed to having a harsh spam filter installed, which gets rid of most spam, but also occasionally also deletes legitimate emails (false positive). Receiving some spam is better than one lost, important email. Just delete the spam.
  • If you leave your machine unattended while still powered on, ensure you logoff first.