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Wiltshire is going Superfast, Get Connected!

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Browsing the Internet and staying safe

One of the main reasons for people wanting a computer is so that they can enjoy the massive benefits of being connected to the World Wide Web (www).  The web allows computers across the whole of the world to talk together and allows the sharing of information.  The web started off as simple pages of information (web pages). The web is the biggest ‘machine’ ever created by mankind and arguably mankind’s greatest achievement.

The amount of information available is almost incomprehensible and finding the thing you need can be really difficult, the needle in a haystack would be a comparatively trivial task.  Fortunately we have tools available called ‘Search Engines’ that help us find what we need. You simply type in what you are looking for and they show a list of websites that might help. There are many search engines to choose from but Google is the most popular.

To ensure you can enjoy peace of mind when browsing the web we recommend you read about the following topics:

  • Validity
  • Cookies
  • Shopping
  • Banking
  • Social media

Validity – How do I know what I am looking at is true?

With the arrival of the internet many more people can ‘write’ a webpage of information and access to this written information has never been easier, it is vital that people are more discerning than ever.

Without going into specific examples there are sites that promote extreme views on a range of topics, provide unqualified medical advice, sell pharmaceuticals without licence (or any regulated safeguards) and simply write using their own opinion regardless of proven fact.

If you’re trying to judge the validity of the information you are reading here are some things to consider:

  • Look at the website address, if you are looking for health advice and the site address ends in ‘nhs.uk’ then it’s likely that the source is reputable.
  • Are there any other websites that agree with the information you have found, or are there websites that contradict it? Do some background research if you’re not convinced by what you are reading.
  • Does this information seem too good to be true?

When you come across trusted websites save yourself a job for next time and add the site to your favourites by bookmarking it. Digital Unite has some helpful instructions on how to do this.

Cookies

If you use the web then it won’t be long before you are asked a question about ‘cookies’, indeed it is now a European law that you ARE asked.  So what is a cookie?

Cookies keep a record of how you are interacting with a website, e.g. the pages that you have visited, how often any key words that you have used etc. Put simply a cookie is a small file that contains text that is placed on your computer – usually by a website that you visit.  If you go to 100s of websites then you might have several ‘cookies’ for each site and this can amount to a lot of cookies.  This really isn’t a problem at all because your computer hardly notices them.

The text file usually contains simple information, like the last time you visited that website, it may record some of your personal preferences (page colour or pages most frequently visited for example).  Cookies will normally not contain any passwords.  The main aim is to make web browsing simpler, more personal and more enjoyable.

The downside is that information is saved on your computer without your express permission and you’re not always aware that it is happening.  Cookies also send information to report upon your activities on their host website

The European law simply says that websites must ask you if it is OK to do this. If you say ‘yes’ then the cookies will function as they always did. If you say ‘no’ this means that you will always get the standard view of the website. This is an example from the Barclays Bank website asking for permission to use cookies:

Cookie

Most web browsers will have a feature that allows you to disable all cookies and to automatically clear away all existing cookies. Browsers also have an option called ‘Safe Mode’ or ‘Incognito Mode’, this prevents any information from being sent by cookies. It  also clears away any cookies that are saved on your computer

PC World have a handy guide on how to delete cookies in different browsers (the programme you use to browse the internet).

Banking online

Many people still have concerns about accessing their bank account online. Online banking is tremendously helpful and now a very mature, well developed service.

Your bank already has all of your financial record electronically, online banking simply allows you to access your own bank account and make changes without the need to visit your branch or to write a cheque.

There are a few things to know about before you start and if you keep these in  mind then you should have no problems:

1. Your bank will NEVER ask you for any account details over email.  Any email asking for these should be considered a hoax and deleted.

2. Type in the web address each time.  Do not click on a website link in an email to log in to your bank – this could be a link to a site that has been made to look like your bank.

3 .Check it’s a secure link.  All normal website address start “http://” a secure link has an S in there as well, like this “https://”.  Before you start to log in check that the website address has the S.  You might also notice a small padlock icon appear in the address bar when there is a secure link.

4. Have a secure password for your bank and one that is different from everything else.  A secure password will be 10 characters or more, contain upper and lower case letters, characters and use numbers as well.  See the password page for tips about powerful passwords.

5. Talk to your bank. They are used to helping people get connected and to feel secure. Let them talk you through the process and explain what is needed for your particular bank.  Don’t be worried about calling them back if you have concerns, most (if not all) banks have a help team working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year .

We did a search and found most high street banks offered help and support about banking online on their websites.  We have listed some of the most popular below, just click on the link to see what advice your bank can offer.

Barclays

Natwest

HSBC

Lloyds TSB

Cooperative

Shopping

Buying goods over the internet is very easy and convenient and can often result in great savings.  You can view goods on the screen, choose what you want and add them to your shopping basket. Once you have all you need you can ‘checkout’ and pay for everything.  There is normally a small delivery charge and the goods are delivered to your door within a few days.

Most large shops offer this service now and many shops only exist on the internet – there is no physical shop but everything is bought and sold through the web.

People are often cautious about paying for goods over the internet because it does require you to pass on your account information.  If you use a credit card (for example) you will need to pass on your credit card number, expiry date and the 3 digit code on the back of the card. Naturally if anyone else has this information then they can order goods on your card (however the goods would normally be delivered to the address on the card).  If you have a large credit allowance then the potential for misuse can be very high.  Most credit cards offer online fraud protection, it would be strongly recommended that you check this through before making any purchase online by making  a simple call to confirm  the position. An example is whereby your credit card company will call you to confirm the transaction being made is with your permission as the charge is being processed.

For added safety some people like to open a second card that they use only for online purchases.  This card would be prepaid and have no overdraft facility so there would be no danger of losing more money than the card is credited with. Some people find this too inconvenient as they have to keep on ‘topping up’ the card.

An alternative system is to use an online payment service, the most common is Paypal.  Many shopping sites allow you to use ‘Paypal’ to pay for everything, this means that the shop never gets to see your credit card details and you only have one payment service to work with for all of your online purchases.  You can even use Paypal to make a payment to anyone with an email address.  Using Paypal with a ‘pay as you go’ credit card would be a very secure system although reading the terms of the card (especially relating to online fraud) would still be important.  There are small costs associated with credit cards and with Paypal. Digital Unite have a very helpful guide that explains what Paypal is and how it works.

Get Safe Online have some very useful tips about shopping safely online.  We also found a very helpful video online from BCC’s Watchdog.

Social Media

Millions of us are using Social Media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with our loved ones.  You can share pictures, thoughts and even invite people to events.  Most of us use social media without any problems but it is worth noting a few considerations, put simply, ‘pause before you post’.

  • You are putting your thoughts and comments in the public domain and there are now new laws to protect us all from libellous and harmful comments.
  • Potential employers have started searching social media sites as a way of researching potential employees.
  • Learn how to use the site properly. Use the privacy features to restrict strangers’ access to your profile. Be guarded about who you let join your network. Each site should have safety pages for you to read.
  • What goes online stays online. Do not say anything or publish any pictures that might later cause you or someone else embarrassment or upset.

The Think u know website offers lots of valuable information and is designed around the age of the reader so there will be useful information for teens as well as concerned parents and guardians.

The BBC Webwise site has a very helpful guide and video about staying safe online.

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