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1. Keep your personal information private

Keep your telephone number, date of birth, email address and your home address safe. When creating or updating social media accounts, make sure that you limit your personal details to the minimum necessary.  Excessive sharing can put you at risk! 

2. Reduce your Digital Footprint

A digital footprint is the information that you’ve deliberately shared and the information collected about you by other people or by companies.  Here are some steps to reduce your footprint:

  • Delete old email accounts
  • Limit the number of social media accounts and deactivate accounts that you don’t use
  • Skip online surveys that ask for personal details, unless it is explained and you can understand why they are necessary
  • Pause before you click on anything online
  • Change your social media privacy settings to limit what is publicly-visible and accessible
  • Avoid giving out your primary email address and use a disposable email address when you need an email address to sign up to a website or other online service, e.g. bookings, purchases and for services that you want to test or try out or would rarely use
  • Only provide the minimum (i.e. mandatory) information necessary when setting up online accounts.  The information that you must give is often marked with an asterisk (*) symbol.  If you're asked for unnecessary information, consider whether it is better to sign up somewhere else
  • Use the private mode in your internet browser so the browser doesn't record the websites you've visited.  This mode is called Private Browsing, Incognito or InPrivate depending on the browser that's used
  • Use a browser privacy extension. Choose an extension that is made by a reputable provider and one that is trusted by other people
  • Use a VPN app, which is easy to setup.  Look around to find the best application for you.



3. Use strong passwords and M.F.A. (Multi-factor Authentication)

Use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols. We recommend using three random, but memorable, words with a mixture of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters (e.g. RamseyhouseislanD42!).

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) (or sometimes called two-factor authentication, 2FA) is quick and easy to set up and it adds an extra level of security against hacking of your accounts. 

4. Think twice before you post or say anything online

Once it is in cyberspace, it is out there forever. Remember that what you post might cause you difficulty, embarrassment or regret in the future.  It could even provide strangers with too much information about you.

5. The dangers of sharing ‘nudes’?

Once you send a person a picture or video, you lose all control of what happens with that image.

If a stranger or someone you don't know well has asked for photographs or videos, it’s risky to send them anything.  Sextortion (i.e. sex + extortion) is more common than you might think and is when blackmailers try to trick people into sending nudes, often by sending photos of themselves first.  Of course, these photos are not of themselves and they’re waiting for a photo from you which they can then use as blackmail by threatening to share it to your friends or family. 

And remember, even if the person is someone you know and trust, trust comes and goes as relationships and friendships change. 

6. Click 'Report' when you see something inappropriate

Let the website or social media platform know about inappropriate content by using their reporting features and tell somebody you trust for advice. 

All of the major platforms used for sharing content have the option to report objectionable  content. For example, on Facebook you click on the ellipsis symbol (i.e.three horizontal dots) in the top right hand corner of any post and select ‘Give feedback on this post’. It will then allow you to report the post as inappropriate and describe why.

Please also report the occurrence of inappropriate content to OCSIA by using the cyber-concerns reporting form.

If you have been sent something inappropriate, do not share it with friends or family. 

7. Be careful about who you ‘add’ on social media and about who you meet online

Simply because someone seems friendly, interesting or has mutual friends does not mean that they are trustworthy or genuine.  

When someone tries to add you as a friend you on social media, it is wise to think about why a stranger might want to do this and why it is necessary for them to add you without getting to know you.  

They could be genuine requests by friendly people but friend requests are a very common tactic for scammers and for people who want to exploit others such as by blackmailing them later.

If the person wants to take the conversation elsewhere (e.g. from the Tinder dating app to the Instagram social-messaging app), especially soon into conversation, it could be that the person isn’t genuine. 

Before meeting someone in person, make sure you’ve taken the time to get to know them a little first, and always make sure someone knows where you are meeting them.

8. Use privacy settings on social media and social networking websites 

The privacy settings control what people (including hackers and scammers) can see.  The more information that you share, the greater the risk of being the target of scams, hacking or impersonation.

If you’re using social media services, such as X (formally known as Twitter), Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and Facebook, you should be aware of your privacy settings and whether you’re comfortable with the information that you’re sharing.

9. Be careful when downloading applications on your smartphone or computer

Apps might contain malware that could infect your device. Only download apps from trusted official app stores (e.g. Google Play, Apply App Store). Third-party app stores can have a lot of fake apps that contain malicious code. You should try and avoid downloading APK files for mobile Android devices as these are not always easy to update to help keep the application secure.

When looking to download apps for desktop computers, stick to trusted websites and official app stores, which will have good security measures in place. Official app stores such as Microsoft Store for Windows or reputable software repositories for Linux distributions are good choices.

10. Do your apps need access to your location, camera, contact numbers, files, microphone, etc.?

Do you already know the ‘permissions’ that your apps have?  If you don’t, it could be that you’re giving your apps access to data that they don’t need or data that you don’t want to share. 

Does an app that switches on a light need to know your location?  Does your business-related app need access to your camera and stored photographs? 

Most apps will allow you say ‘no’ to certain permission requests for information or access to your devices.  When you first download and run a new app, you can select ‘no’ when you’re asked to give permissions.  Most devices will allow you to change permission settings so that you can deny access.  If the app doesn’t work in the way that you wanted because it needs a permission, you can always change this later.

This page was last updated 23/04/2024.