Smart Living | Everything you need to know

How to stay safe online

Cybersecurity doesn’t have to be confusing or difficult if you follow these six straightforward tips.

Protecting yourself and your precious data from online criminals might sound intimidatingly difficult, but don’t despair! With this guide, cybersecurity is well within your reach.

Don’t put off software updates

No one likes being nagged, especially if it’s our smartphones, laptops and other devices pestering us to install the latest software updates. But it’s vital to download and install them as soon as you can, as they can patch security holes and flaws that cybercriminals might otherwise exploit.

If you’re not sure how to do this, or if you want to set up automatic software updates so that the process is as seamless as possible, these instructions can help.

iOS and iPadOS




an illustrative photo of Software Update running on an iPhone
Don’t put off software updates on your devices for too long.

Don’t forget about your router. Models supplied by Vodafone will automatically download and install updates overnight. Most other routers will work in the same way. But with some models, you may have to download and install updates manually.

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Be choosy about public WiFi networks

While WiFi hotspots in public places – such as cafes, restaurants and train stations – can be useful, many don’t offer password protection, so cybercriminals could easily snoop on your unencrypted wireless connection.

If you have to use public WiFi, be wary about using it for sensitive tasks and consider using a reputable VPN [virtual private network] service. VPNs encrypt all the internet traffic flowing in and out of your computing devices.

Don’t forget about password hygiene

Passwords are the keys to our online lives, from online shopping and banking to email and smartphone backups. It’s therefore wise not to reuse the same password or passwords, or share them with anyone else – including friends and family. And ensure they can’t easily be guessed.

To make all this easier on yourself, consider using a password manager. These keep all your passwords in one safe place. You only have to remember one master password for your password manager rather than dozens and dozens. They can also automatically create strong passwords when you’re signing up for new accounts and services.

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Basic password managers are built into iOS and into the Google Chrome browser on both mobile and desktop. You can also subscribe to password managers with more features, such as Dashlane or 1Password, if you wish.

Think twice about email and text messages

It pays to cast a sceptical eye over your email inbox and SMS app. Scammers will often impersonate organisations such as banks and government agencies, sending you fake emails and texts. These will contain links to spoofed login webpages, attempting to trick you into giving up your precious passwords. The National Cyber Security Centre, a UK government agency, has advice on spotting such ‘phishing’ emails and texts.

Turn on and use 2FA

To protect yourself and your online accounts even further against criminal intruders, turn on Two-Factor Authentication – also known as 2FA.

When logging in using 2FA, in addition to providing your username and password, you need to prove you physically have something that only you should have access to – typically your smartphone or number-generating dongle or key fob.

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Every time you log in to an app or website that uses 2FA, it sends you a time-limited, single-use security passcode by either SMS to your registered mobile number or through a separate, authenticator app (such as Google Authenticator or Authy) on your phone.

So even if your password is known to criminals, they still can’t get into your account unless they also have your 2FA device. It’s worth using a reputable authenticator app rather than SMS, where possible, as texts aren’t as secure. Plus the apps work even if you don’t have mobile signal.

Subscribe to Secure Net

Secure Net from Vodafone provides a reassuring extra layer of protection when you’re using your mobile data connection. Built into the Vodafone network, it automatically warns you about dodgy websites and download links, so you’re less likely to download malware.

If you do somehow manage to download or copy malware on to your Android device, the Android version of the Secure Net app can detect and remove it. You can also use Secure Net to restrict access to certain websites on your kids’ devices while they’re using mobile data, namely those involving adult content, hate speech, weapons, drugs and crime. Specific websites can also be blocked, all controlled from your own device.

You can try Secure Net free for three months. After that, there’s a monthly fee of £1 per device.

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