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Protecting yourself online

At HealthExpress we feel that keeping yourself safe online should be your number one priority. We work hard to make sure that our websites are secure and that your sensitive information is stored safely and protected. It's important that you also protect your own information to ensure that you stay safe online. You can find some tips to help you below:

Updates

You can protect your device from a lot of vulnerabilities just by keeping your computer up to date. Some of the fastest spreading malware over recent years has been made possible by computers that did not have the latest updates installed. Ensure you use the software update feature on your computers and mobile devices regularly.

Antivirus

Although your operating system will protect itself from some malicious applications, antivirus will give you far more protection. Always ensure you have antivirus software installed, preferably from a reputable company such as Kaspersky, Symantec or McAfee and make sure it is kept up to date.

If you’re a Mac user, you may have heard Macs don’t get viruses. While they are less targeted than Windows machines, they can still be affected and should therefore be protected.

Passwords

Make sure your passwords are not easy to guess. In general, the longer and more complicated your password is (uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols), the harder it is to break. Also, try to avoid using the same password on multiple websites. If you struggle to remember passwords, try using a password manager.

Remember to change your passwords regularly just in case they have been compromised.

Phishing

Beware of websites that you don’t recognise or emails asking you for private information. Emails claiming to be from your bank or well-known websites may ask you for personal information. Do not share any information in this way, and if unsure about any communication being genuine, contact the organisation using the phone number on their website and confirm that the communication was actually from them.

Also, beware of opening any attachments or clicking links in emails from people or companies you don’t recognise. These emails may contain viruses or be phishing attacks trying to get information from you.

Public Wi-Fi networks

It's important to remember that public Wi-Fi networks are not secure so the information you are sending and receiving can be exposed. You should avoid accessing internet banking and websites with secure login areas when connected to public networks. The same applies to public computers e.g. internet cafes.

Environment

Even after protecting your computer and ensuring you are using a secure connection, one of the biggest factors people forget is their environment. Using your device on public transport or in other public places makes you susceptible to people seeing or hearing your personal information. When doing anything involving private information, including completing a medical form, make sure you are in a private location where nobody can see your screen or overhear phone or video conversations.

Protecting Children Online

If you allow children to use any of your devices, it's important to set up parental controls to prevent them from attempting to access age-restricted content. You can find out more by searching for "parental controls" and the name of the device you are trying to protect.

Portable Devices

Portable devices hold a lot of personal information. Furthermore, applications normally only ask you to login once and then remain logged in to your account. While this is convenient for everyday use, it can be a security risk if your phone or laptop are not protected. Ensure you lock your device with a passcode, password or fingerprint.

Mobile phones come with a lot of apps and we tend to install many more, some of which we don't even use. Most apps ask for permissions to access certain information about you or your phone, but it's important to check this regularly and make sure you don't keep too many apps you don't use, or allow the ones that you do have access to things you want to keep protected. You can normally change this in Settings > Apps > Permissions, although you might need to search for how to do this on your specific device.

Even if your device is locked, it's still possible for the information on the phone to be extracted. For this reason, it's also important to encrypt the information on your phone. Most modern phones are encrypted by default, but it's worth checking if this is the case on your phone (search for "encryption settings" and the name of your device to find out how).

Privacy Settings

It's important to ensure that your privacy settings are managed well to make sure you're not sharing information without even realising it. Privacy settings are available in your browser, on applications and plugins and on online accounts including social media.

It's best to use plugins and extensions sparingly on your browsers as any extra add-ons you have on your device may be a security risk. Also, the browser you use may share information about you, your device or your browsing habits without you even realising it. You can manage these settings under the privacy/security section of your browser, and most browsers even offer a private browsing/incognito mode that allows you to use the internet with the most secure settings. If you're not sure where to find these settings, search for "privacy settings" and the name of your browser online.

As a final point, make sure you check the privacy settings on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Although there has been pressure recently on social media companies to do more to protect their users, default settings sometimes give the lowest levels of privacy.

Report It

Finally, if you have been a victim of online fraud, make sure you report it to your internet service provider as they can advise you on what you need to do.