Cyber Security Focus - 2. A Guide to Protecting Your Online Identity

OnlineIdentityYour online identity is at risk. In a world where we’re all spending more time online, we’re building increasingly comprehensive profiles of information on the web.

These days, you can Google almost anyone and find out what they look like, where they’re from, what they do for a living and more.

Unfortunately, just like your “offline” identity, your online presence is subject to threats.

The more fraudsters and scammers can find out about you online, the more exposed you are to problems like identity theft, theft, and more. In fact, around half of all fraud incidents in 2019 throughout the UK were cyber-related.

What is an Online Identity, and Why is it Important?

Simply put, your online identity is a series of data points related to who you are and what you do online. The information available about you in the digital world can range all the way from photos posted on social media, to email addresses, telephone numbers, and even bank details.

Every time you log onto a website with your email address, share something on Facebook, or fill out a form online, you’re submitting information about yourself to the web. This “digital identity” is quickly becoming a key target for criminals.

Learning how to protect your digital identity is important because we’re all spending more time online and sharing more information on the web. Younger people (the generations most active online) are seeing a rapid increase in the number of attacks they face on the web. In fact, people in their 20s and 30s are twice as likely than people 40 and over to report losing money online.

Younger adults who are more likely than other age groups to use mobile apps for payments, transfer money online, and manage their finances online are also 77% more likely than older people to lose money through email scams.

General Rules for Online Privacy and Safety

Protecting yourself from fraud, hackers, and cybercriminals means making your digital identity more difficult to access. This can seem like a huge task when you consider how much information most people share online every day, but the process can be simpler than it seems. All you need to do is start with some basic steps, such as:

  • Limiting the information, you share: Avoid sharing more information about yourself online than you absolutely need to. You don’t necessarily need to give your real name and address to sign up for an email newsletter, for instance.

  • Use stronger passwords: Choose strong, unique passwords to protect yourself against hackers. Your passwords should be unique, long, and not something someone can easily guess. Diceware is a great tool for generating random passwords if you’re struggling.

  • Never use the same password more than once: If a hacker guesses one of your passwords, and you’re using the same details on other applications, they can easily gain access to a wider number of accounts. Switch up your passwords, and use password managers if you have a hard time remembering everything.

  • Use multi-factor authentication: Multi-factor authentication requires you to enter a code sent to your email or phone number, or another form of authentication outside of a password to access vulnerable accounts. This reduces your risk of security breaches.

Protecting Your Identity on Social Media

Social media is one of the biggest sources of information hackers can access when collecting data on a potential target. These days, virtually anyone can find out a lot about who you are just by checking your Facebook or Instagram page. Think carefully about how you share content online.

Most social media channels will allow you to adjust your privacy settings, so your information is only available to people within your social circle. Make the most of this feature to lock strangers out of your digital identity. You could also consider using an alias or nickname instead of your real name.

When you’re finished using social media websites, log out of them or use private/incognito browsing to prevent hackers from tracking you around the web.

When you’re on social media, make sure you never share information like:

  • The name of your first school

  • Your mother’s maiden name

  • Information about when you’ll be in or out of town

  • Location data, like your address

  • Details of expensive new purchases

Staying Secure When Surfing the Web

When you’re surfing the web, you’re not just browsing online, you’re also leaving a trail of information wherever you go. Your browser automatically collects historical information and cookies as you surf. A good way to reduce the amount of data collected is to use an incognito or private browsing mode. Just remember, incognito mode will only stop browsers from saving information – it does not make your browsing anonymous.

If you want to browse more anonymously, a VPN can hide your location and stop your internet service provider (ISP) from seeing your web activity. However, many VPNs will still store your information, so you’ll need to ensure you trust the service.

When browsing the web, be cautious about the sites you visit. All of the websites you use should be protected with HTTPS.
This means the web pages are encrypted. When using this, ISPs and other third parties can see the web addresses you visit but they can’t see what you’re doing, or intercept data.

Make sure your website addresses begin with ‘HTTPS’. The browser extension: “HTTPS Everywhere” can ensure you always use HTTPS when possible.

Remember, fake websites are common too. While they might look like they belong to a legit company, they can steal data like login and payment details. Always double-check you’re using the correct web address for any company. Most browsers can tell you if there’s a problem with a site’s security or encryption, which is often a clue that the site is not genuine.

Protecting Your Emails

Finally, email is another area where your digital identity is at risk. Studies suggest 1 in every 99 emails is a phishing attack.

A good way to protect yourself is to silo your emails. Have one primary account you use for the most important things, like connecting with friends and banking. For other services, you can use disposable email addresses and secondary emails.

Not only will a secondary email add an extra layer of protection, but it can help to reduce the amount of spam in your inbox too.

It’s crucial to protect your email address because it’s usually the tool you’ll use to recover access to other accounts. Watch out for:

  • Scam emails: Scammers will often send emails that appear as though they’re from legitimate companies, like banks, payment services, and delivery companies. These can often contain files with viruses, or links to fake websites.

  • Requests for sensitive data: Legitimate companies will never ask for bank details, passwords, or other sensitive information over email.

  • Blackmail: Blackmail scams, where people claim to have information about you in order to convince you to send them money, are common.

While the online world can be a dangerous place, it’s important to remember there are plenty of ways to protect yourself with the right strategy. Use the steps above to keep your online identity secure.

Written in collaboration with Rebekah Carter, Contributor at

Photo by Cottonbro

Written by Broadband Genie on June 16, 2022 14:16

Protect Their Curiosity

Internet Matters launches “Protect Their Curiosity” Campaign highlighting 21st Century children’s access to online pornography, violent videos as well as cyber-bullying and sexting trends.

IM Privacy CampaignParents are being urged to play a more active role in keeping their children safe online, with the launch of a new campaign designed to highlight the importance of parental controls in the digital age.

A series of powerful video clips have been created by Internet Matters - a not-for-profit organisation backed by the industry’s biggest broadband providers BT, Sky, TalkTalk, and Virgin Media - highlighting the real risks of children using the Internet without parental controls.

The Protect Their Curiosity campaign urges parents to activate safety filters on all computers, search engines, apps, smartphones and tablets to encourage children to be able to explore the digital world in a safer environment.

Carolyn Bunting, General Manager for Internet Matters, said: “The internet is the most important invention of our time – if not all time. As parents, we should encourage our children to explore and enjoy the freedom of the Internet. But we have a responsibility to protect their curiosity and prevent them from seeing stuff they don’t want to see.

“Setting parental controls is easy, and means parents and children can benefit from the very best of the Internet without any of the worry. However, according to our research, more than half of parents haven’t done it. Enabling these will go a long way towards ensuring children are safer in the digital world.”

Four videos have been produced to give parents insight into how their kids behave online and how they react to seeing inappropriate content.

Child actors have been used for the project to show how “an innocent search can turn bad in one click” on topics of pornography, violence, cyber-bullying and image sharing.

Each video shows a child using a computer or tablet but focuses purely on their face. A web wireframe appears on top of the video, hinting to the audience what the child is viewing online. The child’s expression changes from curiosity, to nervousness and then to distress. No children were exposed to any inappropriate content in the making of the films.

In one of the films, a young boy innocently searches a video-sharing service for films about ‘Pirates’. As well as the expected content, he is able to easily find a video of Somali pirates being killed by private security firms and mercenaries.

Carolyn Bunting added: “The videos might be uncomfortable viewing, but we wanted to show the reality of how a child’s innocent curiosity can turn into a distressing experience in just one click. Kids want to use the web in safety. They don’t want to be scared of what they might click on. A big step towards this lies with parents switching on every parental control available.”

Ms Bunting said it was also hugely important for parents to sit down and talk to their children about wider issues of cyber-bullying and image-sharing, and staying safe when they are online:

“In the same way that parents teach their children how to swim, cross the road or ride a bike, they need to spend time with their kids on-line to ensure they are safe on the digital highways of the Internet.”

The Protect Their Curiosity campaign is being backed by mum Lizi Patch – who says her son was left distressed after seeing a disturbing sex video aged 11 which was being shared around the school play ground.

Mum-of-two Lizi said: “It is incredibly important for parents to be involved in how their children use the Internet. My son was deeply affected by something he saw online on his mobile phone and ended up changing his phone settings to block out any future distressing content. We now have regular conversations.”

Find out more and view the Internet Matters Protect their Curiosity videos

Written by Internet Matters on July 02, 2015 09:17

Privacy is main online concern for primary school children

Parents are not talking to children about the right online safety issues

Parents may be missing out vital information when they talk to their children about staying safe online, the NSPCC warns.

The NSPCC asked more than 600 primary school children what information they needed to stay safe online. More than 80% said online privacy settings on mobile apps and games was a topic they thought their parents should cover in an online safety conversation. And just over half (54%) opted for location settings, which can prevent sex offenders tracking children.

However, although eight out of ten parents told the NSPCC in a YouGov poll that they knew what to say to their child to keep them safe online, only 28% had actually mentioned privacy settings to them and just 20% discussed location settings.

The charity is now urging parents to make sure their online knowledge is up to date by checking out its updated Net Aware guide, published this week.

Among twelve sites that have now been added to the guide are Tapatalk and Pheed, which many parents may not be familiar with, plus well-known games like Call of Duty that allows users to chat online.

The latest websites, apps and games featured in Net Aware were reviewed by a panel of parents and all were rated poorly in terms of how easy it was to change privacy settings, report concerns about abuse or bullying, and find safety advice.

The guide now covers a total of sixty social networking sites, apps and games popular with children and is free to access at

Claire Lilley, NSPCC head of child safety online, said: “If parents aren’t talking to children about things like privacy settings on social networking sites it can leave them at risk of online grooming. We’ve seen horrendous cases where offenders take a scattergun approach, targeting hundreds of children at a time online, often posing as another young person.

“It’s important parents have the knowledge to talk in detail with children about safety settings. Minecraft is one game that is much safer for children once the privacy settings have been adjusted. Our updated Net Aware guide is packed with straightforward advice that will help parents stay up to date with their children’s digital lives.”

Following the launch of the NSPCC’s online safety campaign in January nearly 400,000 parents have spoken to their children about staying safe online. However, it seems that many parents have gaps in their online knowledge and don’t talk about the right issues with their children.

For example, Tinder, Facebook Messenger, Yik Yak and Snapchat were all rated as risky by children, with the main worry being talking to strangers. However, for the same sites the majority of parents did not recognise that the sites could enable adults to contact children. Parents tended to worry more about sexual or violent content or bad language.

The NSPCC is calling for all social networking sites, apps and games used by children to provide easy ways for children and parents to report abuse, attempts at grooming or concerns about content.

The charity also wants to see all online accounts for under-16s:

  • block messages from strangers,
  • prevent users making their location or contact details public,
  • set profiles as private by default on sign-up,
  • alert children to the risks if they choose make their profile public.

    If you would like to know about the online training course for parents available from E-safety Support, login or join free for a full preview. E-safety Support also provide a parent pack of useful information for schools to share with parents.

  • Written by Safeguarding Essentials on May 07, 2015 13:44

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