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Laptops and computers

Keep yourself safe by using strong passwords, secure wi-fi and Bluetooth connections and keeping your anti-virus software up to date.

What to do

Follow these steps to ensure you keep the personal data on your laptops and computers secure.

Passwords

Create strong passwords that are hard to guess to login to your laptop or computer and any online accounts. Never share them with anyone. Avoid family names, pet names, sports teams or anything else that could be linked to your interests. 

Ideally, passwords should have a mix of letters (including capital letters), numbers and symbols, and be about 12 to 20 characters long. Read our advice about setting strong passwords in protecting your personal information.

Do not use the same password for your computer, online banking, social media and apps that are important to you. If a hacker were to get just one password, they would then have access to everything else with the same password.

There are password manager apps to remember all your passwords, especially useful if you use different password for different accounts. These apps also come with risks. If someone can find out the password for this app, then they have access to all your other passwords.

Bluetooth, wi-fi and location services

Turn Bluetooth and wi-fi off when they are not being used — remember they can allow others to access your devices.

Turn off location services when they are not being used — GPS data can tell websites and outsiders where you are.

Keep track of your laptop

Do not leave your laptop unattended at any time. You can install an app to help track the location of your laptop if it is lost or stolen. Avoid using these apps if you are in an unsafe relationship as they can be used by an abuser to track your location.

Suspicious links and attachments

Do not click on suspicious links or attachments in emails, even if they look like they’ve been sent to you by a friend. These links or attachments could place viruses, spyware or malware on your computer and compromise its security. Ask yourself, ‘Is this something my friend would send me? Does it sound like them?’ If in doubt, give your friend a call, or email separately just to check. Otherwise – delete the email. Find out more about how to avoid online scams and identity theft.

Webcams

Do you have a webcam? While it is unlikely that it can be turned on without your consent, it is possible. The light on the webcam should come on if this happens, but this may not always be the case. For extra security, cover the webcam with some removable tape when you are not using it, or simply close your laptop.

System updates and backups

System updates and software updates are important. These often fix known issues and add new security features. Update your system and your software as soon as updates become available.

Install anti-virus and internet security software to protect your computer from viruses, spyware and malware. Keep your virus protection software up-to-date — schedule automatic updates to do this. Make sure you choose a good product, but still follow the strategies outlined above — no security software is 100% fail safe.

Turn the firewall for your computer or laptop on. If you ever receive a message that your firewall has been turned off, then restart your device immediately. The firewall should reload on restarting. Computers and laptops have firewalls switched on running in the background, and they should already be installed on your device or they can be bundled with internet security software. Firewalls prevent hackers getting access to your device.

Back up your data — once a week is the golden rule. Back up your most important files to an external USB or hard drive, and you can also back them up to the cloud, although you may need to pay for storage space if you have a lot of data to back up.

Best practice

  • Saving whatever you are working on at the moment, at least once every five minutes or so, will help to ensure that you do not lose any work or data.
  • Log out of sites as soon as you have finished using them rather than just closing them.

 

More information
Wi-fi hotspots
Find out the best ways to keep yourself safe when connecting to public and home wi-fi hotspots.
Web browsers
These simple steps will help you cover your tracks when you browse the internet.
Apps
How to install and use apps safely, including advice on location services and how to restrict in-app purchasing.
The cloud
How to safely use the cloud to access a range of content from apps to contacts, emails, messages, videos, documents, music and photos.
Bluetooth
We use Bluetooth to wirelessly connect our devices together. Here is how to stay safe while using Bluetooth.
GPS and location-based services
Global positioning systems (GPS) give you access to a wide range of location-based services on your devices.