Protect yourself online!

In the wake of recent 'computer hacks & ransomware' across the UK, here we gathered some information that you might find it useful to;

Get familiar and updated with these scams and learn simple 'Tips and Tricks' that would protect you online!


Tips for using the Internet safely


  • Keep up to date. Make sure your device is protected with Antivirus and Antimalware software, and make sure your Operating System, Browser and any Security software are all set to update automatically, as the manufacturers regularly release patches to fix vulnerabilities. There’s a variety of free Antivirus programs available for both Windows and Mac, and any popular one will help protect your device.
  • Check your phone! Mobiles devices are equally susceptible to exploit by malicious parties. Android phones should have some form of Antivirus software installed, and you should consider the permissions requested by any App very carefully before allowing them.
  • Guard your information. Not all websites are safe, and most browsers will indicate if a website is encrypted, which means it’s safe to enter your personal information into. You can check this in the website address: if it’s got “https” at the start, you’re probably good to go. You should never try and buy anything from a site if it doesn’t say it’s encrypted.
  • If you do need to enter personal information, consider what data you’d expect to give. Phishing scams often look a lot like legitimate websites, but there are certain personal and financial details you’ll never be asked to enter online.
  • If you click a link, make sure it’s actually taken you to the page you expected. A link in a fraudulent email meant to look like it’s from you bank could take you to a perfect clone of the site. If in doubt, navigate to the website through your search engine instead.
  • Don’t download anything when you’re not 100% sure the source is safe. If you’re not familiar with the sender of an email attachment, or a movie-download website seems somehow dodgy, it might be best to leave it alone. If you do download something that looks suspicious, delete it immediately without opening it.
  • Use a strong password. Remember: the more unique it is, the stronger a barrier it is to people trying to steal your details. If possible, have different ones for different sites.
  • Keep regular backups of all your data, in case your computer is damaged or compromised by ransomware.
  • Finally, be savvy! Don’t share anything online that you wouldn’t be happy to say to a stranger on the street. Check you’re happy with the privacy settings on all your Social Media accounts, and don’t leave any shared computer without logging out of any accounts first. Trust your instincts and keep your wits about you!


How scammers can take over your computer

Scams are schemes to con you out of your money. They can arrive by post, phone call, text message, email, or a scammer may turn up at your home.

Computer hackers use computer viruses to gain access to your computer details, to steal your money and identity, then scam you.  They may also get into your wireless (Wi-Fi) network for the same reason.

Fake emails and websites can trick you into buying something bogus or handing over personal details. For example websites that appear to sell event tickets. You pay for the tickets but they never arrive.

This page tells you more about ways fraudsters can get into your computer to steal your money, personal information or identity and what you can do to protect yourself.

Ways your computer can be taken over

Computer viruses

Computer viruses are small computer programs that are designed to try and infect other computers, tablets and smartphones. They break into your computer and spread  from one device to the next as you communicate with other people. They are also known as malware.

How computer viruses spread

Viruses can spread through:

  • computer programs or files that appear to be harmless but actually do damage. These are called trojan viruses. For example, you may download a file with a harmless looking picture of a celebrity, which is actually hiding the virus
  • email attachments. The virus then finds new people in your email address book to attack
  • programs you download from websites
  • documents. These are known as macro viruses
  • the internet. This is known as a worm. The worm scans for other computers that are vulnerable to attack and sends a copy of itself across networks. A worm can eat up memory or network bandwidth, which will make your computer slow down or stop responding.

What viruses can do when they reach your computer

Viruses can leave unwanted software on your computer that:

  • secretly monitors your computer activity
  • scans for private information, such as passwords
  • gives scammers control of your computer
  • send out spam email
  • display unwanted advertising
  • hijack your web browser
  • use your computer to host illegal websites to con other people.  

They can also switch off your computer’s security defences, leaving it vulnerable to more viruses. And they can track what information you put into your computer by monitoring your keyboard strokes.


Spywarecan track users through advertising that might pop up on your computer. When you click on the advertising link you may be taken to a website which can install a virus onto your computer without you realising it.

The virus can take over your web browser, scan your computer for private information and slow down your computer. It can be difficult to remove spyware.

Wi-fi eavesdropping

If you use a wireless network to access the internet, the signal that lets you connect to the internet uses a radio link with a range of several hundred feet. This is called a Wi-Fi network. If your network isn’t secure, other people can also access your internet link if they are within range.

Scammers can also set up access to fake Wi-Fi networks in public places. If you log onto the network, they can try to capture personal details, such as passwords and credit card information.

Other computer scams


Ransomware copies personal files or photos from your computer. When a scammer has control of them, they send a demand for money in return for the files or photos. If you don’t hand over the money, they threaten you with the release of images and files to others, to embarrass you.


Scareware is rogue security software, such as antivirus software, that protects your computer. It hides in pop up adverts or alerts that advertise security software updates.

If you click on the adverts or alerts, thinking you are downloading legitimate security software, you may inadvertently start to download scareware onto your computer.

When the scareware is installed it may fail to report viruses or say you have a virus when your computer is clean. Sometimes it will download a virus or spyware onto your computer, which steals your personal information or slows down your computer. You may also be asked to pay for these fake updates.

Phone calls pretending to be from computer companies

Callers pretend to be employees of well-known computer companies who have discovered problems or viruses on your computer. They persuade you to give them access to your computer with passwords and security information and then ask for payment and bank details.

Genuine computer companies will never do this. If you need technical help, always call or email your internet service provider's support line or talk to a computer repair company locally.

Next steps

Reporting a problem to Trading Standards

Trading Standards deal with complex consumer problems and potential criminal activities.

If you want to report a problem to Trading Standards, you should contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, who share information reported to them with Trading Standards.


Further reading




Malware attack: How to protect yourself online 




Farhad I.  FBCLibrary.


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