Mary, a symbol of grace
May 5, 2020
Parishes feed the multitude
May 5, 2020

Creating a cyber-safe home

In his 2016 message on World Communications Day, the Holy Father said the Internet could be used to “build a society which is healthy and open to sharing”. With unlimited access to information on the world wide web, you might find creating this healthy digital space in your home to be a challenge. What is important, however is that we do not overlook our choices of convenience over security.

Try practising these 5 tips:

  1. Beware of phishing

Have you ever received an email from someone, often claiming to be “a friend” and its tone and content are urgent? Are they trapped in Europe or Africa and in need of financial help? It is likely you have been phished. This is one of several examples of phishing—a cybercrime in which a target or targets are contacted by email, telephone or text message by someone posing as a legitimate institution to lure individuals into providing sensitive data such as personally identifiable information, banking and credit card details, and passwords.

Measures to be taken by online users:

  • NEVER send your passwords or credit card information in an email to anyone. Apple, Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon or any reputable site will NEVER ask you for personal information like that via email.
  • DO NOT open emails from unknown senders, especially those regarding COVID-19. These could be phishing scams.
  • DO NOT click on links in emails that you don’t know, especially regarding COVID-19. Email links can be used to spread computer viruses and other malware.
  • DO NOT download or open email attachments from unknown senders. These could contain viruses and other malware.
  • DO NOT click on suspicious links in social media messages, even if they are from someone you know. Their accounts may have compromised.
  • DO contact someone if you suspect their email or social media account has been compromised. If they have, advise them to change their passwords and run virus or malware scans on their device.
  • DO NOT click on ads or social media posts from unfamiliar accounts, especially those regarding COVID-19. They may be fake and contain malicious content.
  • Make sure the email address or attachment is relevant to the content of the email.
  • Make sure you know the sender of the email and it has a valid email address, especially when you are not expecting an attachment. Even though it may look like it came from Amazon, check the actual email address (e.g. is not a real Amazon account).
  • Look for typos, grammatical errors or bad formatting. Phishing emails try to replicate official emails from companies by using their colour schemes, layouts and logos to trick you into thinking they are legitimate.
  • Use anti-virus or anti-malware software on computers. Free is okay but paid is always better. Bitdefender, Norton, Avast, Kaspersky, Webroot are just some to which you can subscribe.
  • Re-check the URL before opening a webpage and use trusted URLs. If you are unfamiliar with a website, it would be best to avoid going to it if you are uncertain.
  • Do not enter information in any webpages that you are not familiar with e.g. your name, address, email address, mobile number etc
  1. Online purchasing

Cybercriminals are sending emails with malicious attachments or links to fraudulent websites to trick users into revealing sensitive information or donating to fraudulent charities or causes. Only use online stores/organisations known to you.

  1. Practise safe browsing

You would not choose to walk through a dangerous neighborhood—do not visit dangerous neighbourhoods online. Cybercriminals use engaging content as bait. They know people are sometimes tempted by dubious content and may let their guard down when searching for it. The Internet is filled with clever boobytraps, where one careless click could expose personal data or infect your device with malware. By resisting the urge, you do not even give the hackers a chance.

  1. Be Careful What You Download

A top goal of cybercriminals is to trick you into downloading malware—programmes or apps that carry malware or try to steal information. This malware can be disguised as an app: anything from a popular game to something that checks traffic or the weather. As PCWorld advises, do not download apps that look suspicious or come from a site you don’t trust. Always download from the software developer’s website and not a third party if you can.

  1. Protect your passwords

Passwords are important. So important that persons will try anything to get them. Malware, hacking and phishing are typically what are used to get your passwords. How do you protect them?

  • Avoid using the same password for all your accounts. This makes it easier for people to access everything you might own digitally.
  • Use Two-Factor Authentication (also known as Multi-Factor Authentication or 2-Step Verification). Most email services like Google, Outlook and Yahoo have this feature available. This allows you to add a second layer of security when signing in. It can be in the form of a special code texted to your mobile number or an Authenticator App that generates new codes every few seconds. Even if someone gets your password, they need this secondary code to get into your account and this code changes every time.
  • Just re-stating the obvious – do not give anyone your password.
  • Run trusted virus or malware scans on your device to remove software that might be exposing your passwords

Contact a trained IT specialist for assistance if you suspect you have been victim to a scam or your system has been compromised.

Also, spend time praying to the patron saint of the Internet, St Isidore of Seville, for online protection!


What is Phishing?

Top 10 Internet Safety Rules & What Not to Do Online,