Are you cyber streetwise? We've caught up with the National Fraud Authority to find out where the web's dangers lie, and how to be safer online.

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The mobile internet enables us to do so much on the go, from shopping to banking to chatting and more. But with that kind of flexibility it’s important to be aware of potential risks too. At Vodafone we’re always looking for ways to help people get the most out of the internet while staying safe, which is why we’re getting right behind the National Fraud Authority’s (NFA) brand new Cyber Streetwise campaign.

 

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The Vodafone Guardian is every parent’s best friend, acting as a layer of control between your child and any potential online and SMS dangers.
Click here for a Vodafone Guardian app walkthrough.

 

The campaign, which is comprised of eye-opening videos, posters and adverts, looks to aid people in taking the right steps to keep their data safe. We’ve been speaking to Peter Wilson from the NFA to find out what it’s all about, why people need to stay safer, and what five simple steps can help you keep a lid on your personal details…

Identifying the problem

“The internet’s fantastic and it’s given us so much opportunity,” says Peter, “but there are some vulnerabilities that are created by it. We’re banking online, shopping online and doing all these great things, but we’re not yet savvy enough in some areas to be fully conscious of where our data goes and how that can leave us vulnerable.”

That’s not just opinion, either. The NFA is a government-run team whose entire job is to research the potential dangers of using the web in all its forms. “Organised criminal networks around the world are clearly using the internet to generate income. And it’s very easy to do that, compared running around with guns. There aren’t any national boundaries, either, which means online crime can be international. People are beginning to realise quite quickly that things are out there that are looking to get their data.

“People don’t necessarily know what kinds of questions to ask…”

“We’ve got loads of examples from different parts of the UK. There are things like individuals running internet servers for pubs, restaurants or small guest houses – those people who rely on online booking – having their services brought down or their data hacked.

“A lot of small businesses get really caught out by this stuff. People don’t necessarily know what kinds of questions to ask or what kind of provisions they need.

But,” Peter adds,” there’s some amazing data from the last few years that show quite significant losses for all types of people from various types of online fraud. A third of the population have lost something. The value varies hugely – sometimes it’s a few pounds but sometimes its thousands.” And the mobile web is now a big part of that story.

“So the whole point of the Cyber Streetwise campaign is to inform people, so that they’re better protected and can look after themselves a bit better.”

That’s great, but an educational campaign like this only works if it strikes the right chord with people…

Toeing the line

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Peter explains that the difficulty in something like the Cyber Streetwise campaign is getting the tone just right: “Some people are aware of the dangers but aren’t sure what to do. They might get mixed messages. And there are other people who’re just completely unaware of the risks. Because of that, it’s difficult to strike a balance where you’re informing people without scaremongering or patronising.

“The whole point of this campaign is definitely not to scaremonger,” he assures us. “We’ve tried to keep all the posters and videos very light, fun and entertaining. They’re just designed to make you link up what you do in the real world with what you do online. The message is a very confidence-building one; it’s saying ‘clearly you’re not stupid in the real world, just make sure you do similar things online’.”

To put that in context, Peter likens this way of thinking to some now commonplace guides for other parts of everyday life: “We’ve got a highway code of how to cross the road, we know what we should do when driving, we know how to avoid pickpockets in busy places, and this is the same thing; we wanted to give people some streetwise tips on how to stay safe on the internet – both on your phone and at home – and how to get the best out of it.”

Five simple rules

To kick-start your online safety training, check out the video below:

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Hopefully that might’ve made you think about how you act online in a slightly different light, but this is just one example of the campaign’s multi-faceted approach. “There’s no silver bullet for all of this stuff,” Peter says, “so the Cyber Streetwise campaign highlights five specific actions.” And those are? Simple…

1. Use strong memorable passwords
2. Installing anti-virus software – particularly on mobile
3. Checking privacy settings on social mobile
4. Shopping safely online – always check that retail sites are secure and genuine
5. Download and application patches when prompted

Got that down? Good. “We’re measuring how well the Cyber Streetwise campaign works through a huge sample of the UK’s adult population” Peter adds. “We’ve set a benchmark so we know what they’re doing at the moment, and we’ll be asking them questions over the next few months of the campaign to see if they’ve been making themselves a bit safer.”

Hopefully, the results will be a big step in the right direction. For loads more info, check out the Cyber Streetwise website.

Keeping kids safe… If you’re a parent and you’re worried about the potential dangers of the mobile web, look no further than our free Digital Parenting Guide. There’s a link to that and a whole lot more right here.