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Scam Advice during COVID-19

As the country continues to rely more on technology while staying at home to protect the NHS and save lives a national campaign from the NCSC has been launched offering advice about protecting passwords, accounts and devices with the aim to help individuals and organisations to protect themselves online.

It urges people to protect their data passwords, the accounts they protect and the devices they use to access them.

With many people in the UK trying video conferencing for the first time, the advice includes top tips on securely installing the app, creating a strong password and tracking who is joining the chat.

They also recommend that you do not make meetings public, connect only to people through your contacts or address book – and to never post the link or password publicly.

Here are some tips to help you stay safe online amidst this new wave of COVID-19 scams.

Create a separate password for your email

  • Your personal email account contains lots of important information about you and is the gateway to all your other online accounts.
  • If your email account is hacked all your other passwords can be reset, so use a strong password that is different to all your others.

Create a strong password using three random words

  • Weak passwords can be hacked in seconds. The longer and more unusual your password is, the stronger it becomes and the harder it is to hack. The best way to make your password long and difficult to hack is by using a sequence of three random words you’ll remember.
  • You can make it even stronger with special characters.
  • Starting with your most important accounts (such as email, banking and social media), replace your old passwords with new ones. Just connect three random - but memorable - words together.

Save your passwords in your browser

  • Using the same passwords for all your accounts makes you vulnerable - if that one password is stolen all your accounts can be accessed.
  • It’s good practice to use different passwords for the accounts you care most about.
  • Of course, remembering lots of passwords can be difficult, but if you save them in your browser then you don’t have to.
  • Online service providers are constantly updating their software to keep sensitive personal data secure, so store your passwords in your browser when prompted; it’s quick, convenient and safer than re-using the same password.

Turn on two-factor authentication

  • Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a free security feature that gives you an extra layer of protection online and stops cyber criminals getting into your accounts - even if they have your password.
  • 2FA reduces the risk of being hacked by asking you to provide a second factor of information, such as getting a text or code when you log in, to check you are who you say you are.
  • Check if the online services and apps you use offer 2FA – it’s also called two-step verification or multi-factor authentication. If they do, turn it on. Start with the accounts you care most about such as your email and social media.
  • Your bank automatically carries out an extra security check if you use online banking, so you don’t need to turn this on yourself. However, you should check your bank has your correct phone number so they’re able to text a code to your mobile or call your landline to confirm it’s you.

Update your devices

  • Cyber criminals exploit weaknesses in software and apps to access your sensitive personal data, but providers are continually working to keep you secure by releasing regular updates. These updates fix weaknesses, so criminals can’t access your data.
  • Using the latest versions of software, apps and operating system on your phone or tablet can immediately improve your security.
  • Remember to update regularly, or set your phone or tablet to automatically update so you don’t have to think about it.

Turn on backup

  • If your phone, tablet or laptop is hacked, your sensitive personal data could be lost, damaged or stolen.
  • Make sure you keep a copy of all your important information by backing it up.
  • You can choose to back up all your data or only information that is important to you.

Advice for individuals using video conferencing

1. Setting up your account

Installing the software. When first installing a video app or required software ensure you are downloading the software from a trusted source such as your phones app store or the manufacturers website. Don’t click on links sent to you from random individuals or on unusual websites, as these could take you to fake versions of the video app.

Create a strong password that is different to all your other passwords. Weak passwords can be hacked in seconds. The longer it is, the stronger it becomes and the harder to hack. Make yours strong by using a sequence of three words (add link to 3RW guidance). If available also use two factor authentication. This is a free security feature that gives you an extra layer of protection and stops cyber criminals getting into your accounts – even if they have your password. It reduces the risk by asking you to provide a second factor, such as getting a text or code when you log in, to check you are who you say you are.

Understand what you are paying for. In the majority of cases the 'free' version of a service, correctly configured provides adequate security for personal use. Paid versions may offer extra features and usability features that you could consider if you feel your needs and situations justify it.

2. Arranging a chat

Do not make meetings public. Connect directly via your contacts/address book, or provide a link privately to specific people. If the feature is available, make use of passwords to add another layer of protection. Do not post the link or password publicly.

Know who is joining your chat. If you are organising the chat for your family or friends consider using the lobby feature to ensure you know who has arrived. This is especially useful if individuals are joining the meeting via an unrecognised phone number. Verify participants identity when they join the meeting.

Understand what other features are available as a host. Many services offer features to record the meeting, share files, or show what is on somebodies screen. There may also be additional controls to manage who can be in the chat. If you don't need these features considering setting to 'host only'.

3. Protecting Yourself

Try the service before your first chat. Most services have a ‘test’ function to ensure your microphone and camera work correctly – use this function to familiarise yourself with the service. Understand how to mute your microphone and turn off the camera. This will give you more control over what you share with others.

Update your devices. Cyber criminals exploit weaknesses in software and apps to access your sensitive personal data, but manufacturers are continually working to keep you secure by releasing regular updates. Using the latest software, apps and operating system on your devices can fix bugs, add new features and immediately improve your security.

Consider your surroundings. What else does the camera show when you are chatting with others, and would you want to share that information with strangers? Consider obscuring/blurring your background or using a background image.

If you’ve recently set up a new account on a video calling app or haven't looked at your security settings for a while on an existing account, you should take some time to make sure you're using these services as securely as possible.

You can find out more at www.ncsc.gov.uk/CyberAware

 

 

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