What you need to know about passwords

Why do some websites ask me to create a username and password?

Shopping websites, webmail and banks are among the sites that require you to have a personal account. This is so that you alone can view your own information and spend your money. Other sites, such as social networks, also need to know that you are who you claim to be.

 

What happens if I forget my password?

Don’t worry if the ‘memorable’ password you chose does slip your mind. As well as setting a password, you may be asked to provide answers to some personal questions that enable the account to verify your identity if you forget your password.

Answering a series of simple questions correctly, such as the name of your first pet, will allow your account access to be restored. (For extra security, it is a good idea to choose answers that aren’t actually true—perhaps use the name of a friend’s pet instead of your own if you think you can remember it.)

After establishing that you are who you claim to be, some email providers may ask you to reset your password.

Others may send you a verification code by text message on the contact number you provided when first setting up your account—you will be asked to enter it on screen before your account access is restored.

Read more: Everything you need to know about internet security

 

What you need to know about pop-ups

I heard pop-ups can be dangerous, but I am not sure what they are

A pop-up is, as the name suggests, a window that pops up unbidden on your screen. It’s okay if you know it’s a safe pop-up—for example, a download you have requested from a reliable website.

However, there are other pop-ups that open up when you visit certain websites, without you requesting them to do so. These are usually adverts and could be from safe or suspicious sources.

The pop-ups themselves are safe, it’s the content in them that, if clicked, may not be. But they are annoying because they clutter up your screen, and stop you viewing the website you are on.

 

What can I do to stop pop-ups?

Most browsers have a pop-up blocker that’s turned on automatically and this stops all pop-ups from opening. If you’re unsure, you can check the settings.

In Internet Explorer, click the Tools menu then select Pop-up Blocker and make sure it is turned on. In Chrome, load the Settings menu via the three-lines icon, and click on Show advanced settings. Under

Privacy, click on Content Settings and scroll down to find the pop-ups section and alter the settings. In Firefox, click the Firefox button then Options. Under Content, check that there’s a tick next to Block pop-up windows. In Safari go to Safari then Preferences and click Security. In that section, click Block pop-up windows.

 

Is there anything else I need to be aware of when browsing?

If you’re visiting European websites, you’re likely to come across a banner message (across the top or bottom of the screen) about cookies when you visit new sites. This informs you that the site uses cookies and asks for your consent for cookies to be used (or not) while you browse.

Most browsers have a pop-up blocker that is turned on automatically and this stops all pop-ups from opening.

Read more: 6 Steps to internet safety

 

What you need to know about cookies

What are cookies?

Cookies are small files that websites install on your computer—generally for legitimate reasons. It is thanks to cookies, for example, that online shops recognise you when you visit (‘Hello David, welcome back!’), saving you the trouble of logging on every time. In other words, websites use cookies to track your activity.

When you load a site, your computer checks whether you have been there before and sends the cookie information to the site. The site may change the information it displays to you, so that you see something new.

Some cookies track the time you spend on web pages, what you put in your shopping cart and more. All of this can contribute to a more tailored experience.

Read more: What does Google know about me?

 

Is it okay to have cookies on my computer, then?

Usually, they are a convenience to you and will enhance your experience of any website where you spend money, share personal information (such as social networks) or otherwise have customised the page to suit your needs. So, it’s not advisable to delete your cookies.

It is thanks to cookies that online shops recognise you when you visit, saving you the trouble of logging on every time.

 

I have noticed that I often see adverts about things I have searched for online—is this connected to cookies?

This is called targeted advertising. Cookies can be used to build up a profile of you—based on what you do online. This information may then trigger personalised adverts. It can be disconcerting to search for a watch, say, and then find an advert for this on your screen.

But in a sense it is no different from what a supermarket does when you use a loyalty card.

Read more: Learn about cyber crimes and what to do if you're a victim

 

I don’t like it. How can I stop it?

Here are two things you can do to help stop targeted advertising.

  • Browsers can send a ‘Do not track’ request to the websites that you visit. You will need to turn on this option in your browser settings. Be aware, however, that this is a request for websites not to track your browsing, rather than a guarantee that they won’t.
  • It’s more effective to install an add-on that blocks advertising—the most popular is Adblock, which you can install from your browser’s extensions store, or from adblockplus.org. This will stop targeted and other ads from being displayed on the websites you visit.

 

What about deleting the cookies?

The cookie monster

You can certainly delete cookies if you think the downsides outweigh the benefits. To do this:

In Chrome click on the three-lines icon, then Settings then Show advanced settings and under Privacy click Clear browsing data and select the option to Delete cookies and other site and plug-in data and click Clear browsing data.

To remove cookies in Firefox, click on Firefox, History, then Clear Recent History. From here you can set the time range to, e.g. Clear Everything and tick Cookies on the list (and nothing else) then click on Clear Now.

In Internet Explorer 10, click on the Tools menu and select Delete browsing history then tick the box next to Cookies and select Delete.

In Safari, go to Safari, Preferences and then select the Privacy tab. Click on Details under Cookies to see a list of all cookies. You can either click Remove All or select individual cookies from the list to delete.

Read more: 12 Things you should know about online security

 

What you need to know about downloads

As long as I have antivirus software, is it safe to download from the web?

If you try to download anything that could be malicious software then your antivirus will flash up a warning and you should not proceed with the download. Remember you must keep your antivirus updated to be sure it offers the best protection.

 

But you should always take notice of the source of the download—is it a site you can trust?

If not then avoid downloading anything from it. If you didn’t click on anything to make the download box appear, then the site is trying to make you download a file to your computer. This is another clue that it may not be safe or necessary.

 

Keeping children safe

What about my children—how can I make sure they are browsing safely?

There is plenty of safe, educational and fun content available on the internet for children. But it is essential to take steps to protect your children’s safety when they browse the web—the web is designed for all ages and there is a lot of inappropriate content that can be viewed, whether intentionally or not.

Both Windows PCs and Macs have parental controls that you can use to set time limits on computer use and restrict access to certain types of website.

Read more: How to keep children safe online

 

How do I set these controls?

In Windows, go to the Control Panel and select User Accounts and Family Safety, then choose Set Up Parental Controls For Any User. On a Mac, open System Preferences in the Apple menu, select Parental Controls and follow the on-screen instructions.

You can also set parental controls on most browsers to help protect children from offensive language, nudity, sex and violence.

 

Where do I find parental controls on my browser?

In Internet Explorer 10, click on the gear icon, then Internet options, then the Content tab and click on Family Safety and follow the instructions to set up an account for a child and to set the restrictions on what they can and can’t see when browsing.

If you use Safari, then you can also create a guest account for your child and enable parental controls—go to System Preferences in the Apple menu and choose Accounts to do this.

Chrome allows you to create a ‘supervised user’ account for your child: you can allow certain websites and block others, as well as check what sites they have visited. Log in to Chrome, click on Settings in the three-lines menu and choose Add new user under Users. Firefox has something called

FoxFilter that you can download from its online add-on store. It allows you to block particular websites as well as any that contain inappropriate keywords. And if your child has a tablet or phone, you can install a parental controls app from the built-in app store.

Read more: Online bullies: What is a troll and how to stop one

 

Is there anything else I should do?

It’s unwise to rely solely on parental controls. The best way to protect your children is to talk to them and make them aware of how to stay safe online—an open conversation with a caring adult is the most effective tool for keeping them safe. It is also important to monitor their browsing: you need to know when they are online and what they are doing.

Keep the computer in a living area, and position it so that you can see the screen as you go about your daily business. Make it a rule that mobile devices are not used in bedrooms, out of sight.

Use the History function to check what websites your child is using (bearing in mind that this can easily be disabled). And insist that you know the passwords for sites they have joined, so that you can check their activity from time to time.

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