Online Security

Avoid Being a Victim of Cyber Crime

To be safe online it is important to understand the nature of cyber crime and realise how it might affect you and how important it is to take sensible precautions. This 30 minute documentary from BBC Panorama is available on BBC iPlayer until October 2016. Many people will find it is easier to watch a film such as this rather than read about it. I hope that once you have watched this, you will realise that it is essential to learn more about how to be safe online.

Panorama: How Hackers Steal Your ID

The documentary is devoted to highlighting examples of cyber crime, providing a clear idea of what it is and how it might affect you if you don’t take precautions. It devotes only 23 seconds to saying how relatively easy it is to protect yourself. To find out the details of what you need to do, please read the content on this page and elsewhere on our site.

Within these pages we provide links to other authoritative resources that can help you.

If you feel you need hands-on help, you can get help on Digital Fridays. We are also considering setting up specific seminars if there is sufficient interest. If you are interested in a specific topic, please submit a request explaining your topic of interest via our email form here.

Your Computer

Before considering how to avoid scams perpetrated on the internet, it is important to ensure that your computer is set up securely, removing one major source of vulnerability.


In the beginning came computer viruses, often developed as a “joke” or an intellectual “challenge”. But, over the years many kinds of malicious software have been developed that can compromise your computer. Thankfully, you do not need to know their names or how they work but it is essential that you know the sensible precautions to take to ensure that they do not affect your computer.

This malicious software is now referred to as malware. However, most online security software is still referred to as “antivirus”. It is critically important that your computer has an antivirus installed and a firewall.You can read more, including comparisons of various products, here.

Automatic Updates:

There are a number of vulnerabilities that come with your computer. Microsoft regularly issues updates for their Windows operating system as “bugs” are found (and utilised) by malware programmers. Google Chrome made considerable play when launched on its greater security than Internet Explorer. Plugins such as Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Reader also regularly introduce security updates. The recommendation is always to allow these updates. If you are unsure how to do this or how your system is set up, pop along to your library on a digital Friday.

Obviously, the computer user needs to install antivirus software and keep the computer updated. However, the user becomes a particular factor in operating securely.


Using a strong password is among the most important steps you can take to protect your computer from hackers accessing critical private data. You can find extensive advice (Do & Don’t) here. I dread to think how many passwords I have; far too many to remember. To quote “Get Safe Online”;  “The fact that you should use different passwords for each of your accounts can make them very difficult to remember. Consider using one of the many password vaults available on the internet, but read reviews and get recommendations.” Many of the antivirus suites provide this as part of the package. Using such facilities means you only need to remember one password. Password generators can be found online, such as the strong password generator. You can see the settings I use in the figure on the right.