Online fraud is now the most common crime in the UK - with the average person 13 times more likely to be a victim of cybercrime than a street robbery.

What's more, the fact that most of us have smartphones means that crimes like theft, fraud and money-laundering are now easier than ever to carry out.

High-profile data breaches at companies like British Airways and Marriott get a lot of media coverage, but cybercriminals are increasingly going after small businesses, community groups, schools and individuals.

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Cybercrime is not just a concern for larger corporations, so all size businesses as well as individuals, need to know what to look out for and how to prevent it.

See below for a list of 5 ways to protect yourself and your business against cybercrime:

1. Use strong, unique passwords

Whilst it may be easier to remember one password, doing so is putting your computer, and your business, at risk. It's important to use unique passwords that are different for each site, and not easy-to-hack passwords like "1234" or "password".

Passwords should be unique and contain at least 8 characters, including a combination of words, letters and symbols. One of the best ways to set a password is to use a memory device. For example: "Charlie was born in Nottingham in 1990."

This could create the password: CWBIN1990* (add a symbol of your choice at the end).

2. Install the latest updates

It may seem like your computer is constantly asking you to install new updates. But ignoring these messages can often be dangerous. It is essential that you keep your software and operating systems updated. Updates on your operating system usually patch up any security issues, meaning that that software is safer to use and can't be easily targeted by cybercriminals.

This is why, for example, businesses have been urged to update their Windows 7 operating system to Windows 10, once Windows 7 End of Life takes place on 14th January 2020.

Also, be sure to install software to scan your system for viruses and malware, to catch anything that might get through. Unsure of what anti-virus software you should be using? Get in touch with our IT experts today.

3. Regularly back up your most important data and files

If the worst happens and you are targeted by a cyber-attack, you can easily retrieve lost files if you’ve safely stored them elsewhere. One of the very best things you can do to protect your business, is to have a business data backup and recovery plan in place. That’s why working with data protection experts like Custard, can help protect your company from disaster.

If you can, you should also encrypt the data that's stored on your smartphone and computer. If a hacker copies your files, all they’ll get is gibberish, rather than, for instance, your address book and financial records. This often involves installing software or changing system settings, something that our IT experts at Custard can look into for you.

4. Be careful what you click on, and where you connect to

Many people are caught out by cybercriminals simply by clicking on a link or downloading a file from an unreliable source. It's an easy mistake to make but the consequences could be catastrophic for your computer security and your business. Simply put, you should never click on hyperlinks or download files from sources you don't trust.

In addition, when using public Wi-Fi, anyone nearby who is connected to the same network can listen in on what your computer is sending and receiving across the internet. You can use free browsers like Tor, to encrypt your traffic and camouflage what you're doing online.

You can also use a virtual private network to encrypt all your internet traffic, in addition to what goes through your browser to make it more difficult for hackers, or even casual users, to spy on you. There is a wide range of VPN options, which our team at Custard are happy to talk through with you.

5. Keep details private

People are sometimes conned by entering personal information into online forms. These forms often look genuine but in fact have been created by fraudsters looking to take money or steal your identity. Legitimate organisations like your bank will never ask you for any security details or ask you to transfer money into an account, so be cautious!

Not only this, but cyber criminals can easily access your private data using social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and more. For instance, if you publish a photo with your pet with the description “Alfie and I”, it’s very easy to conclude that Alfie is the name of your dog. The same applies for publishing images or posts on your birthday.

This way cybercriminals can easily get our personal information, therefore making it very important to have locked profiles with as little personal information as possible. The conclusion is the less you share with those outside your circle, the better.

Want to speak with an IT security expert?

If you’d like to speak with our data security experts at Custard and find out more about how you can protect you and your business from cybercrime, give us a call on 0800 612 4818 or email us at [email protected] to discuss how the IT experts at Custard can help you.