With online scams and threats to our bank security becoming ever more complex, it is vital that we protect ourselves both personally and within our small business.

So today I’ve asked Mark Bonnamy, Founder of specialist IT Solutions Company, Ridgewall, in the City of London to Guest Blog for us.  His expert advice gives us the simple steps we can take to protect ourselves against the increasing threat of online scams.

I hear all too frequently that someone’s account has been compromised, and whilst the various scams seem obvious to some, they aren’t to others.  Before we know it, we’ve sent £1,000 to a friend in dire need – or so we are led to believe by the desperate and urgent email which purports to be from them.

One thing is definitely true: its only going to get worse and the scams more professional, whether that’s in the type of email you receive or the Malware and Virus that are set to compromise the devices you use.

Here is some advice to avoid the scams

1.       Never use just one password (that’s ever) for your key accounts, banks etc. If you do you will likely be a victim and when you are, it’s going to be far worse than if you use different passwords!

2.       Password length and complexity is absolutely vital. Use pass phrases that are easy to remember eg Cho1rdrive5meM&D!

3.       Never use the same password for your bank that you do for email or Amazon, iTunes etc

4.       You don’t need to change it frequently but it does need to be long and use the unusual characters

5.       If you are ever going to make a payment of a significant amount always phone and check with the person and company directly.  Don’t use the phone numbers that come with the info; check independently i.e. google the company to verify the numbers are legit.

Why do accounts become compromised?

Generally at the moment there are two reasons:

1.       Weak passwords

2.       Malware infections

Why are there so many email related problems?  The email system we use hasn’t changed since it was invented, and is about the most insecure, spoofable system there is!  Its easy: trust nothing that comes via it!
We have all seen password reset request for iTunes or bank spoofs or scams, so it’s a simple rule. Only ever click on a link if you are absolutely sure it’s from the sender. In the case of iTunes, banks and similar always separate your actions.

If you get an email saying your Amazon delivery is delayed NEVER click on the link, always open a web browser and log in as you normally would. This avoids going to spoof web sites and avoids downloading malware.

What should I do to protect the devices I use?

1.       Always do the software updates as soon as they come out (set to auto-update where possible)

2.       Generally go for the paid for versions of protection, everything that is free is a cut down version that could be improved upon if you bought it.

3.       Always make sure your anti-virus software is up to date (sometimes your bank may offer free protection such as anti-virus software etc).

4.       Mac users you are not much safer than anyone else; don’t be fooled!

5.       If your anti-virus software doesn’t have Malware protection buy Malware Bytes it’s around £25 per annum for 3 devices and is a great product (for Mac’s too).