Tips for staying safe online

Blogging is all about sharing information. When it comes to travel and lifestyle blogs, such as this one, we share images, videos, information and advice to capture peoples’ imaginations and, essentially, let them into my world. But how much access are we really giving people?

Earlier this month I attended a #notforsharing event at the iconic Dominion Cinema in Edinburgh, hosted by the Royal Bank of Scotland. The purpose of the evening was to highlight the risks of being unaware and unprepared when it comes to your online security, and how easy it can be to fall victim to online fraud.

Before a screening of Kevin Spacey’s latest film Baby Driver (an excellent film – more info on that in my next #whatthefizz post), we were shown a short video…

I have always considered myself quite savvy when it comes to online security. And of course, by having an active blog presence, I was not surprised to find I had a fairly ‘searchable’ online profile. However a few details, such as my address and the names and online shopping habits of my friends and family did surprise me. All details which can be used by fraudsters online.

The purpose was not to scare me into blogging less, or sharing less, but to be more careful about the type of information I share, and to make me think more about online security when it comes to my social media presence.

I hasten to add it’s not just me who’s at fault. A recent survey of Scottish adults showed that whilst one in six Scots have been the victim of online fraud with an average loss of £6,00, whilst 17% of young people in Scotland aged 18-24 admit to having shared their online banking password or pin with someone in the past.

Alasdair Macfarlane, Head of Corporate Security Services at Royal Bank of Scotland, tells me that one of the most common mistakes we make when it comes to online privacy is complacency and the need for convenience, the latter of which I am familiar: Some common mistakes include a failure to keep our privacy settings high, using passwords that can be easily guessed and not installing effective, up to date, security software.”

The way we consume and share news and information is so immediate that we have become incredibly dependent on things being quick and easy. I love nothing more than to be able to click straight into my favourite websites because my trusty mac remembers my passwords. The sheer ease of re-ordering the last Tesco food shop with just one click still amazes, yet pleases me. Nowadays we expect responses from questions asked online instantly, and often prefer to speak to an online chatbot, as opposed to a human being on the end of the phone or in store.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I love an app. They are designed to make our lives easier. Taxis, yoga classes, shopping, banking – you name it, I app it. But I am learning there is a price to pay. Alasdair comments: Whilst apps can be incredibly useful and make our lives easier in many ways, there is often a trade-off to be considered between personal benefit and increasing one’s exposure to potential security risks. Most apps come with a list of permissions that they require to provide their service ranging from bank card details to location and your phone-book information.”

Clearly, there’s lots more we need to do to protect our online privacy. So where do you start? From a very long list, here are three top tips from the team at RBS:

  1. Always limit the amount of information you provide – do not post information that could be used by third parties, such as your address (home, school or workplace), date of birth, postcode, job title or information about your schedule or routine
  2. Change passwords regularly – and use a separate email address for social networking sites
  3. Install anti-virus and security software on your smartphone or tablet such as Royal Bank of Scotland’s Rapport package to keep mobile apps secure.

Alasdair is also keen to point out, it’s got to be a team effort: “In an ideal world we would all be able to take responsibility for our own online security and nobody would ever fall victim to hackers and scammers. However, with the increasing prevalence of social media, we are only as strong as our weakest link. If possible, take the time to spread the word and help show others how they can help to keep us all safe online.”

Please help your friends and family to stay safe online by sharing this #notforsharing blog post. For more information on how stay safe and secure online, check out the RBS Security Centre.

Thank you to Royal Bank of Scotland, Stripe Communications and HeeHaw.

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