How can you protect your online identity?

There are a number of things you can do to protect your online identity:

1. Keep your phone and computer up-to-date. Install software updates when prompted

Many software updates improve online safety by fixing bugs and providing security patches.

2. Install security software and keep it up to date

Anti-virus software should be installed, regularly updated and run scheduled scans. Having strong security coverage will make you safer, but it won’t make you immune. You still need to be careful about what you download, which websites you visit and where you share personal information.

3. Use strong passwords

A good password should contain at least eight characters. It should have a mixture of upper and lower case (if the password is case sensitive), and it should include numbers, letters and other characters. Your password shouldn’t contain the personal information of you or anyone you know. Ideally, your password shouldn’t be a common word or phrase (for example, ILoveYou), even if you replace some of the letters with other characters (for example, replacing the letter "a" with @).

4. Use different passwords for different websites

That way, if one account is hacked, the hacker won’t be able to get hold of your accounts on other websites. This is particularly important if the account is sensitive or important to you.

5. Be careful about which companies you buy from online

If you’ve never heard of them before, read reviews and research the organisation to make sure it’s a legitimate business.

When you’re on the page which asks for your card details, look to the left of the website address bar. Is there a padlock or key symbol? Does the URL say “https”? If so, it means the website is using   Secure Sockets Layer (SSL/TLS) protocol which makes it more difficult for your details to be successfully intercepted.

6. Learn to spot phishing emails

There’s no guaranteed way to identify a phishing email, but there are several things you can check if you suspect an email may not be trustworthy.

Firstly, if the email is from an unknown or unusual sender, don’t open or respond to the email, click on links or open attachments.

Other good tips include hovering over the link in the email (but don’t click it). Depending on which email provider you use, the actual website the link leads to should be displayed in a bottom corner of your screen. If the actual website isn’t the same as the email claims it is, it could be a phishing email.

Other tell-tale signs include poor spelling and grammar, an unrealistically good offer, a request for lots of personal information, an insistence that you urgently click the link and a request for money. However, not all phishing emails will show these signs. A phishing email can have perfect spelling and grammar, for example.

7. Think carefully before sharing personal information

This includes sharing personal information online, sharing passwords with friends, and giving information over the phone to unknown, unusual or unexpected callers.

Personal information from social media profiles can be used to “fill out” a picture of your identity. Check the privacy settings on your social media profiles, the more private, the safer you are. Hiding information from people you aren’t friends with is a good idea. Be particularly wary of sharing your date of birth, address, email and phone numbers on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

8. Monitor your bank statements regularly

If you see anything unusual or unexpected, get in touch with your bank or building society as soon as you can.