The NCSC and BT share their top tips to help you stay secure online during coronavirus

By Kevin Brown, Managing Director, BT Security; Sarah Lyons, Deputy Director, National Cyber Security Centre

The last few weeks have changed the way we use technology in ways we probably never imagined. Many of us are spending more time online, whether that’s home schooling, home working, shopping, gaming, or video calling with friends and family.

BT has produced a range of ‘Top Tips on Tech’, which give guidance on online issues ranging from children’s safety through to working from home and taking your business online. Throughout all these activities, it’s vital that you are doing them securely and protecting yourself from cybercrime. To help you, BT is supporting the government’s Cyber Aware campaign which gives six important tips to stay secure online.

Alongside these top tips, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has also produced helpful guidance on the secure use of video conferencing, online gaming and shopping to help keep us protected during this period of social distancing. Both BT and the NCSC believe making this guidance both easily available and understandable is crucial to keeping the UK safe online, and will explain below how following these steps can help your security.

Your email account contains lots of important information about you and is the gateway to all your other online accounts. If you think about it, if someone gets into your email, they could potentially reset the password on all your online accounts. That’s why it’s so important to keep it secure by protecting it with a strong password that is different to all your others. But what makes a strong password? Essentially the longer and more unusual your password is, the stronger it becomes and the harder it is for a criminal to hack or guess. The best way to make your password hard to hack is by using a sequence of three random – but memorable – words. For example, “BeachTarantulaOranges” (don’t copy this one though…).

You’ve probably got more online accounts than you can keep track of, from banking to shopping to social media to TV streaming services. You should avoid using the same password for different websites and do this by finding a way to remember passwords that works for you. Saving your passwords in your browser or by using a third party password manager is a great way to do this.

For an added layer of security on your important accounts, turn on two-factor authentication (2FA). This is a free security feature that’s available on many popular services and helps to prevent criminals accessing your accounts, normally by sending you a text or code when you log in, to check you are who you say you are. So if another person tries to access your account, they’re prevented from doing so.

Making sure your devices – your laptop, phone, tablet, smart speaker – have the most up to date software and apps is one of the best things you can do to immediately improve your security. 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. We’d encourage you to regularly check for updates on your devices and apps or set them to automatically update so you don’t have to think about it anymore.

If you’ve ever left your phone in your pocket and not realised until you heard it bouncing round the washing machine, your first two thoughts were probably ‘that’s going to be expensive’ and ‘I hope I haven’t lost all my photos’. We can’t help with the first thought, but the second one is easy to prepare for – just turn on automatic backup on your device. Not only will it help keep those treasured memories safe so you can access them again when you get a new device; it will also mean that if your phone, tablet or laptop is hacked you can recover quickly from your backup.

Finally, you may have noticed that cyber criminals using our fear of coronavirus (COVID-19) when sending scam emails that try and trick people into clicking on a bad link. The link could take you to a dodgy website or infect your device with malicious software. You may have received an email that claims to have a ‘cure’ for the virus or encourages you to donate. If you receive an email that you’re not quite sure about, you can send it to the NCSC’s Suspicious Email Reporting Service by forwarding it to report@phishing.gov.uk. If anything is found to be malicious, the NCSC will take it down and you will have helped protect others from falling victim to scams.

For more information visit www.ncsc.gov.uk/cyberaware