It’s the topic that is dominating conversations, social media, the front pages, and every single newscast – Covid-19. While some may neglect the rules, we all know and understand what is expected of us to help slow the spread of this virus, so this blog will not be talking about that. But rather, the digital precautions we should all be taking to protect our identity, businesses and finances. We asked our resident expert Alison (Miss A M Investigations) to give us some advice on staying safe online.
Now more than ever, people are desperately seeking up to date information to help them to understand what is happening. However, this leaves them open for ‘fake news’ and misinformation creeping in. Whether its simply scaremongering, or encouraging certain detrimental behaviours, or even to manipulate sales of unnecessary products.
The Government set up a special task force to combat the spread of misinformation from purported ‘experts’. The unit reports that up to 70 incidents a week have been identified and resolved, and is advice to help the public identify these false stories.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said “We need people to follow expert medical advice and stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. It is vital that this message hits home and that misinformation and disinformation which undermines it is knocked down quickly.
We’re working with social media companies, and I’ll be pressing them this week for further action to stem the spread of falsehoods and rumours which could cost lives.”
The best way to avoid being swept up with misinformation is to follow these steps:
- Source – make sure information comes from a trusted source, don’t believe what you see on social media.
- Headline – always read beyond the headline as often they are misleading click-bait, and may give the impression that the article is going to state something else.
- Analyse – check the facts and verify it by checking another reputable news source.
- Imagery – does the image or video look as though it has been doctored? Reverse image search on Google for more information.
- Error – look out for bad grammar and spelling as often this is a red flag, pay close attention to URLs and email addresses.
If you’re at all concerned, visit Gov.uk for the latest Government advice.
Phishing Scams and Malware
Malware and viruses, while not deadly, can spread quickly and be very damaging to your computers and/or business. Hackers will take advantage of any situation where the public are vulnerable. There’s a string to fraudulent emails and SMS messages going around designed to add to the panic and encourage people to click on malicious link or opening attachments which will spread malware.
The sender can be pretending to be an official, such as HMRC, and encourage you to enter personal information in order to access your accounts, steal from you, or copy your identity.
The safest way to protect yourself is to verify their authenticity before responding, and remember that these organisations will:
- never ask for your username or password to access safety information
- never email attachments you aren’t expecting
- never request money
- never as for sensitive or personal information upfront
Beware that criminals are smart and convincing, and will use a variety of tactics to try to trick you. Always be wary, especially during the fog of a global panic. Follow my advice and you should be safe, but if not, I can help – get in touch if you need further advice.