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'Spring Clean’ your technology this April

This April, the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, is supporting Get Safe Online's campaign to urge people to spring clean their computers, laptops, tablets and phones, to help prevent them from becoming a victim of cybercrime.

The call for action follows recent research revealing over half 51% of Brits have experienced an online crime. Get Safe Online is a public private joint internet safety initiative

Despite the worrying stats, people are not taking the necessary precautions to protect their technology. Just one in four puts security software on their mobiles or tablets (26% and 25% respectively), putting them at a significantly higher risk of spyware, spam, viruses and fraud. This is behind desktop computers and laptops which are protected 50% and 71% of the time.

In addition, more than half (54 per cent) of mobile phone users and around a third (37 per cent) of laptop owners also do not have a password or PIN number for their device. That figure rises to over half (59 per cent) for desktop computer users and two thirds (67 per cent) of tablet owners.

To help kick start the nation into spring cleaning their technology, Get Safe Online recommends the following steps:

  • Make sure you install security software on all devices from a reputable supplier
  • Thousands of new viruses are detected each year, so keep your security software up to date in order to provide the most complete protection
  • Whether it's a phone, website or a social media account, your first line of defence is a PIN or password so give yours a refresh this Spring
  • Never use the same password and make sure it is hard to guess (don't use your pet's name, your birthday or your favourite football team)
  • Make sure your home Wi-Fi is protected with a strong password that only you and your family know

In addition, if you are disposing of any old computers, laptops, phones or tablets, remember that they still hold a lot of information about you and should be disposed of safely:

  • Copy all of the data you will need in the future on to your new PC or storage device, or back it up in the cloud
  • Fully erase the hard disk so that any personal information is completely deleted. Simply deleting files is not enough to permanently erase them, instead, use a dedicated file deletion program or service, or physically destroy the hard drive to render it unusable
  • Ensure that any CDs or DVDs which contain your data are removed from the computer and dispose of these with care
  • Take your old computer equipment to a proper disposal facility, as these will ensure that is dismantled and the components recycled correctly and responsibly

Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online, commented: “This spring we want to encourage people to take their spring cleaning a step further and give their technology some attention. Installing security software and keeping it up to date is one of the most basic things we can do to stay safe online and, by not bothering, people are opening themselves up to dangerous scams, spam and viruses. And as our smartphones and tablets become a bigger part of our lives, we must get into the same mind-set as we have with our computers and install security software as second nature. Another basic precaution to keep your information safe and avoid identity theft is to always use a PIN number or password on all your devices. It might seem like an inconvenience at first but it will soon become second nature and it will save time, money and hassle in the long run.”