In this day and age, online privacy is integral. As the Internet has grown and developed over the last 15 years, the risk of fraud or identity theft has become greater. When you combine the threat of bank fraud, viruses, malware and the rise of social media, it’s more important than ever before to safeguard your personal information on the Internet.

Unfortunately, it’s now very easy to inadvertently give away your personal data. With fraudsters now targeting victims in a variety of ways and using scams on email and social networking to gain access to your details, you need to know the best practice ways of reducing the risk.

Who is tracking your personal data?

On the whole, most people now use the Internet in some capacity. Perhaps you take advantage of online banking to set up direct debits. Maybe you post regularly on Twitter or keep up with your school friends on Facebook. Possibly you’re only surfing the web for the latest news and sports results. Whichever way you treat the Internet; your personal data is there for all to find online.

This is a scary thought in itself. Even if you’ve never touched a keyboard, signed up to a newsletter or opened a social media account, there’ll be bits and pieces others can still access online. What’s more, this information is likely changing hands without your consent.

Of course, you’ll probably want your data to be protected from companies out to use information for their own personal gain. However, there are also instances where stored data can make it easier for you to browse and shop using the web.

For starters, information related to your credit history or car insurance will be shared between various parties and the Internet allows this to happen quickly and efficiently. If you apply for a loan, the lender will check your credit score, which assesses all the information available on your financial history (from the number of credit cards and missed payments, all the way through to files of bankruptcy).

However, not always is this sharing of data to your best interests. Whether you’re using your laptop, a tablet or even a smartphone, your online behaviour will be tracked and monitored to determine your characteristics. Your location, the websites or advertisements you click, the ones you ignore and much more will all be stored.

This information is then effectively sold to the highest bidder – so theoretically could end up anywhere. In today’s world web users will even be ranked, depending on the likelihood of them being potential customers.

For these reasons alone, it’s clear why you’d want to protect your personal information.

However, there are also times when this sharing of data can be of benefit. Take Facebook for instance. Because of the data stored online, Facebook is able to suggest new friends, upcoming events and even products you may find of interest.

The thing is, for the most part you’re able to opt out of data sharing, either by changing your settings and preferences or making sure to tick the right boxes. Throughout this resource we’ll talk in-depth on the best ways to keep safe on the web, whilst avoiding Internet scams and reducing the risk of being targeted by fraudsters.

Keeping safe online with tablets & mobile phones

In 2016 it’s estimated there’ll be two billion smartphone users worldwide. In the UK alone, over 97% of people own a mobile phone and as such, are likely to be using the Internet in some capacity.

The funny thing is though, people don’t tend to safeguard their mobile device as they would a personal computer. The chances are your laptop or desktop is equipped with antivirus software, so why wouldn’t you take the same preventative action for a smartphone?

Not only are mobile phones an easy target for thieves, but they’re also prone to attacks from malware through text messaging, email and even social media. In order to better protect your smartphone and with it, your personal data, look to follow the tips outlined below:

1. Always keep your handset locked

Whether it’s a smartphone or tablet, the chances are you’ll have applications and webpages with the password automatically saved. This could be Facebook, Amazon, eBay or even your personal banking. Keep your password safe and always lock the handset. If you haven’t already, change the settings to enable automatic locking when inactive for a certain period of time – 30 seconds or so.

2. Install location finding software

There are apps available to help you find and locate your smartphone in the event of theft. These could be standalone or even part of a larger security package, so take a look at your options. Find My iPhone is particularly popular and helps you locate the handset’s exact whereabouts.

3. Install an antivirus

There seems to be an odd misconception whereby people believe a mobile phone or tablet is immune to viruses and malware attacks. This simply isn’t the case though, with Android smartphones particularly susceptible. Consider installing an antivirus and update this as and when required.

4. Carefully consider your apps

When downloading and installing any updates, make sure to do so through the correct channels and avoid third party software. What could appear as genuine, may very well be an attempt to lure unfortunate victims into downloading malware files. Also, don’t authorise apps to conduct strange behaviour, such as sending text messages or accessing your camera.

5. Jailbreaking isn’t advised

Jailbreaking has been around for years and involves manipulating a device to remove the constraints put in place by manufacturers. This technique is common with computer consoles and allows users to play multiple video games without purchasing. However, the same can also be applied to smartphones. With jailbreak though, there’s the risk of removing security features that’ll leave your handset vulnerable to an attack.

6. Use cloud to back-up your data

All information stored on desktops, smartphones and tablets can be stored on a cloud-based service, whereby it’s kept safe. This allows you to remove data from your handset without losing it for good.

7. Avoid risky Wi-Fi connections

Your personal Wi-Fi is fine. So is 3G and 4G. However, if you’re traveling abroad or using a Wi-Fi you can’t fully trust, it’s heavily advised to avoid bank transactions, purchases or accessing of emails.

8. Don’t click email attachments willy-nilly

Modern smartphones allow you to access your emails at the touch of a button and push notifications even let you know the instant you receive new correspondence. Whilst this is great for both personal and business use, it also puts your handset at risk. In the same way you wouldn’t respond to spam emails, don’t open attachments from risky senders and beware of phishing (which will be explained in greater depth later in this resource).