Computer Crime Research Center


Experian's 13 steps to get and keep safe online

Date: November 02, 2005
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: CCRC staff

1) Buy a recognised anti-viral program and set it to auto-update regularly. Free software is also available but carries no warranty.

2) Use anti-spyware software to protect against Spyware and Trojan software. Also, set your browser preferences only to accept cookies you recognise and wish to install. Many cookies are quite legitimate but others can act as spyware or Trojans – you can often tell from the name, which might contain words such as access, ad, tracker, backdoor, burrow or exe.

3) A personal firewall helps prevent Other users accessing your PC while you’re connected to the internet - but ensure it is swithched on.

4) Regularly install any operating system patches and fixes to keep your system security in place – you should be able to instruct your computer to check regularly.

5) Only use WiFi or Bluetooth in places, and with devices, you trust. Many wireless networks are not encrypted, so anyone with a little knowledge could eavesdrop. Keep your device in non-discoverable mode when you are not using WiFi or Bluetooth and use a personal identification number (PIN) to keep the device secure. Do not connect into non-secure access points in public places. If you must, do not send any sensitive information, such as your login details.

6) Do not reply to phishing e-mails, which are designed to look as though they come from your bank or an on-line service provider. They may ask you to confirm your account details, such as account number and password. They are always fakes- no reputable organisation will ever ask you to send this type of information. If you get an e-mail, never reveal this information and if you want to tell the organisation that is being imitated, call them using the official number on their legitimate website or use a directory enquiries service – the numbers on a phishing e-mail or fake website will be false, too.

7) If you receive mail from people or organisations you do not know, delete them and, if possible, inform your e-mail supplier that they are spam. Do not open any attachments – these are likely to carry viruses. Your anti-viral software should alert you or automatically delete any virus carrying messages. Never reply to these messages because that alerts spammers that the e-mail address is valid and you will be bombarded with more messages from more senders.

8) Microsoft Office programs such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint can contain a lot of hidden information that you had no intention of sharing with other people. Some versions of Word, for example, can track any alterations and changes that have been made while writing a document, which can be revealed later. Another example is a chart embedded in a PowerPoint document that can include the entire Excel workbook containing the chart’s data. Use plug-ins to strip documents of hidden content or convert them into pdfs. Check on the Microsoft site,, for available plug-ins for your version of Office. There are several free pdf makers available and Apple Macintosh users will find a pdf maker built-in to OS X.

9) Information does not disappear when you place it in your computer’s waste basket or recycle bin. Buy and use a clean-up utility to overwrite the disk space of your discarded information. Delete sensitive and personal information if you need to send your PC to a supplier for a health check or upgrade.

10) Strangers can recover the contents of unwanted hard drives, disks and tapes from old equipment. The only completely safe way of preventing others from recovering the data is physical destruction. Contact your local council recycling centre for safe disposal.

11) Portable storage devices, such as USB key rings, are not secure, so keep them as safe as you would your passport or credit cards.

12) Most of us are dependant on our PCs now, so it makes sense to copy important documents on to a CD and keep it somewhere secure.

13) Buy a home shredder to destroy anything with your name and/or address or financial information on it, including unsolicited mail. These documents could be used to steal your identity or financial details. Making this small investment in privacy means that you can recycle your paper safely – so you are doing your bit for the environment, as well as being security-minded.

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