Internet and mobile security 

The internet, mobiles and other devices bring lots of benefits to you and your family. But, just like in the real world, you could face security risks in the digital world.

Criminals could install malicious software (malware) on your computer that might damage your data, cause your PC to run slowly, gather personal information, harm your reputation or be used to steal your money.

You could also get malware on your mobile – sent by SMS, MMS or Bluetooth, for example – although it’s much less common than on computers.

What do I need to know about internet and mobile security? 

Your family’s computer could become infected if you or your child:

  • Visit websites that are deliberately designed to attack your computer in some way or go to sites that you would expect to be trustworthy but someone has hacked them and introduced some malicious code
  • Come into contact with files that have been affected by viruses – you might have been sent the file by email or Instant Messenger or picked it up as part of a file-sharing network, for example
  • Install a program that contains a Trojan horse

Once your computer is infected, the malware could:

  • Gather information about you or your child, such as bank details, account names and passwords. This is often done by spyware or by keystroke monitoring, where someone remotely logs the keys you strike on your computer keyboard
  • Use your family’s computer to send malicious communications, such as spam to other internet users. Hackers use huge networks of infected computers, called botnets, to send spam
  • Wait for instructions from its controller, making your computer a zombie

In addition, you or your child could be the victim of:

  • Hacking by someone you or they know – for example, a survey of teenagers revealed that one in four has attempted to access the Facebook accounts of their friends, mainly for fun
  • Phishing – where a criminal pretends to be from a trusted organisation, such as a bank, and emails or texts you to acquire sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card details. Read our spam and scams article for more information
  • Spam and scams – you or your kids might receive unsolicited messages via email or text, requesting personal information or claiming that you’ve won a prize to trick you or your child into parting with money, visiting a bogus website or calling a premium rate number. You can find further details in our spam and scams article

Did you know?
According to a study by the EU, almost a third of European internet users have caught a PC virus despite the majority having security software installed.

What action can I take? 

Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus software, anti-spyware tools and a firewall on your family’s computers. You can also install anti-virus software and firewalls on your or your child’s mobile

Make the most of built-in tools like spam filters and pop-up blockers

If you have a wireless network at home, make sure it’s encrypted

Explain to your child that they should only download software onto their mobile if it comes from a trusted source

Make sure you and the rest of your family regularly back up files you care about on your computer

Explain to your son or daughter that they shouldn’t give out personal information if they receive an unsolicited request by email or text from a person or company they don’t know

Ensure that they set up strong passwords (a combination of letters, numbers and symbols) on their computer and password-protected websites (such as their bank)

Read our articles about Bluetooth, identity theft, privacy and spam and scams

Where can I go for more information and support?