Emails, apps and devices

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How to secure your emails and devices, at home and on mobile

The internet provides an ocean of information and entertainment.

Unfortunately, the high-seas of this online ocean is still rife with pesky pirate types.

Some are keen to hoodwink your personal details while disguised in friendly, helpful colours. Others ransack your data files and hold them ransom. And some might exploit weaknesses in your new inter-networking devices (The ‘Internet of Things’), potentially giving them control of your baby camera.

In today’s interconnected world, no one can afford to be ignorant of online security threats and the simple steps needed to protect yourself and those you love. Securing those mobile devices has become just as important – if not more so.

No doubt, keeping the family safe is your biggest priority. So, make sure you have the right information when making decisions on your family’s internet security.

Luckily this is all catching on and some companies are getting more on board with creating the right level of public awareness.

Importantly this also includes the providers of the internet themselves. Virgin Media, for example, has started to recommend two levels of parental control. One for the home, called Web Safe, and the other for the outside world, called F-Secure.

Initiatives like Switched on Families means that internet security is finally getting the front and centre attention it needs in today’s tech heavy world.

Email security advice

Email security is probably the oldest and most recognisable kind of internet threat.

This is in part because emails are one of the oldest forms of online communication, but also because emails are handled by human beings. And human beings make mistakes.

Although simply opening an email is now safer than it once was, you must still be careful of opening any attachments or clicking on any hyperlinks in the email’s text.

Also, be aware that email hackers are getting increasingly good at faking a real email. Pretending to be your bank, or an affiliate of PayPal, for example.

Evolving like a virus to a cure, hackers are constantly finding new ways to infect your personal devices. And the problem is that no amount of security programs and phishing blockers installed on your device can save you from yourself.

So you basic email safety protocol should look like this:

  1. Do you know the sender? If you don’t then you might need to be more careful of which sites/companies you’re giving your email to in the future. Don’t make it easy for spammers.
  2. NEVER CLICK on links (unless you fully trust the sender) – even if it is not a phishing attack, this link will send a ‘secret’ message to the spammer/hacker that identifies you as a ‘clicker’, meaning you will most likely get more nefarious emails in the future.
  3. If you want to check a link first then right-click on it, COPY the link, and paste it onto word pad. Analyse this link’s address this way: does the address sound like what the email was on about? And is it a HTTPS secure site you’re being linked to? If not, it is probably better to ignore this email’s link.

Should I update my apps and software?

Yes. Always.

And here’s why.

The fact of the internet is that it’s an open ocean and your connected device is a high-speed boat, allowing you to visit any of the ‘website islands’ you like. Which is great, and is at the heart of the internet’s free spirit. However, you need to be secure at each part of your journey.

Which means making sure your devices (your PC or mobile ‘boat’) is not easily hijacked by pirates.

Because even if you’re network is secure with Web Safe, for example, your device is potentially still vulnerable.

Device level protection is important and it starts with keeping your apps and software up to date.

Apps are not always updated for security but this is the most important reason to do it.

Although this can seem like a waste of time, a lot of updating can happen in the background when your phone is plugged in for the night, or when your PC is shutting down for the evening. Most of it happens automatically these days, but it is worth checking this is happening as it should.

But updating your apps can only get you so far, and at the end of it you’ll need a great internet security app. Luckily, there is a great free offering for Virgin Media clients called F-Secure SAFE. This handy anti-virus program will keep your devices safe, and give you an extra level of parentally controlled protection on the net.

Domesticating your Internet of Things

There is a new threat on the internet security scene, related to a new range of products that can loosely be called the Internet of Things (IOT).

These new ‘things’ are products (usually white label products) that are trying very hard to make your life easier by connecting themselves to your network, thus allowing for remote control via your hub from the phone in your pocket.

You can see the futuristic appeal of this.

Manufacturers are really punting this idea, and loads of these clever products are already available at the click of a button. Such remote plug points for saving electricity. Wi-Fi control of your speakers, security and heating. Or remote control of your new child’s baby monitor.

Although we struggle to see the point in a lot of newly released products, like this writer’s opinion of a smart toaster. Essentially there is little justification for the ridiculous prices of some of these items.

Worse, however, than their poor application and price, are their security faults.

A lot of these products are not secure. And some have reported giving access to your Wi-Fi passwords, which, as we have discussed above, can be a massive breach to your security.

How do you know if your IOT is secure?

Risk reduction can be done by:

  1. Consider what you connect – don’t connect everything. Why does the home amp need to be connected? Probably not. Do you need to have your toilet connected with an app?
  2. Reduce your footprint by limiting how many devices you connect into the Internet of Things. Just be reasonable with what you need connected.
  3. Where are you using them? Are they pointing privately or privately – minimise any possible damage.