How to keep your online account secure

Learn how to keep your accounts and sensitive data safe and secure online.

Password security

In most cases, your password will be the only thing protecting your online accounts, which is why you should always make sure you have a strong password.

We have provided a few helpful hints and tips on how to make your password as secure as possible.

Install an anti-virus software

You should make sure that you have anti-virus software installed on all the devices you use online. Computers, tablets and mobile phones can all be infected with malware, which hackers use to farm sensitive information like your logins, passwords and even your financial information.

If you don’t have any online security yet, you can try our Virgin Media Internet Security on PC or Mac. Get Internet Security powered by F-Secure on unlimited devices for £30 a year, with your first 3 months free. It’ll automatically detect and remove viruses, malware, ransomware and spyware. What’s more, it’s compatible with all device types, from your laptop or MacBook to your Android or iPhone.

Log in to your account to activate Virgin Media Internet Security.

Update software on your devices

Operating systems and software applications sometimes have vulnerabilities in their code. These can be exploited by a third party to steal personal information. When these weaknesses are discovered, they’ll usually be fixed by developers with a software update or a patch. That’s why you should always make sure your software as been updated to the latest version.

Most operating systems have an automatic update system, so you should make sure that’s activated. When you’re busy, it’s very easy to keep putting an update on snooze. To keep as secure as possible, you should run the installation as soon as you can.

Learn how to update software.

Get familiar with two-factor authentication

You may see that some companies will ask you to set up two-factor authentication (or multi factor authentication) after creating a password. This means that when you sign in you’ll need to enter your password and a second piece of information – usually a one-time code from a text or mobile app.

Encrypt sensitive information

Encryption is the most effective way to properly secure your data. To read an encrypted file, you must use a security key or password to decrypt it.

There are a number of ways to encrypt files. You can get specialist encryption software and applications. Some computer operating systems can be set to encrypt your hard drive’s contents when the machine is not being used. You can also find secure note functions on some password managers, which allows text to be held securely.

Maintain fraud awareness

Hackers will frequently use fraudulent emails and texts to try steal your sensitive information. We have provided some help and advice on how to avoid this kind of fraud below.

Keep physical security in mind

Personal and financial information isn’t only stolen through hacks. It’s always important to keep your devices secure, and never give out sensitive account information to anyone – even those you trust.

We recommend you do the following to help you keep your accounts safe:

  • Always lock your computer when you’re not using it, even if you’re just leaving it for a minute or so to grab a coffee
  • Never set your web browser and other applications to remember your account passwords, unless you are the only person that uses that computer
  • When using a computer you share with others, always log out of any online services after using them
  • Don’t write your passwords down on paper. Burglars are becoming increasingly aware that people keep passwords written down
  • Never provide information or data to someone you do not trust – if you have any suspicions that someone is not legitimate, ask for identification or contact the company they claim to represent

Learn how accounts become compromised

Online accounts can become compromised in a number of ways. We have outlined the most common techniques used by hackers below:

  • Malware – Often referred to as viruses, malware is malicious software designed to steal personal and financial data or use your computer in order to commit abuse such as participating in network attacks. Malware is often installed without a user’s knowledge – it’s often bundled with illegal downloads of media or downloaded from untrustworthy websites
  • Phishing – Malicious third parties may send emails or other types of messages that are written to look like they have been sent by a reputable source to steal information from you or to infect your machine with malware. An example is an email that appears to come from your bank asking you to update your online password
  • Social Engineering – This is where a malicious third party uses social techniques to get information out of someone or to trick someone into doing something for them. A good example is someone calling you saying they’ve noticed your computer is infected with malware and they require access to your computer to resolve it. Once given access, they will be able to install malware, extract personal information and even hold your data to ransom
  • Password attacks – A password attack is when various techniques are used to gain access to a system or service that requires a password
  • Dictionary/Rainbow attacks – These are automated processes that attempt to access accounts using commonly used password or dictionary words, trying them one after another until access is gained.
  • Brute force attacks – These attacks will automatically try every possible combination of letters, numbers and special characters to guess the correct password for an account.
  • Password re-use attacks – Hackers know that a lot of people use the same (or similar) passwords for most of the accounts they use online. When they get hold of a password for one account, they will often use an automated process to try and login to as many online services they can think of using that password
  • Vulnerability exploitation - Software applications often have vulnerabilities in their code that can be exploited by a third party to perform malicious attacks and steal personal information
  • Data leaks - Hackers rarely keep stolen data to themselves. They will often publish or sell usernames, passwords, and any other data they’ve stolen, allowing other malicious third parties to use the credentials to access your accounts.

Always back up data

Having your device’s important information backed up and saved in a remote location means it can remain safe if something goes wrong.

Sometimes, when your device gets a virus or becomes infected with malware, you might need to format it to clear the malicious software. This won’t only clear the virus, but all your personal data too. That’s why it’s so important to back up.

But it’s not only through malicious software that you can lose your data. Hardware damage or other physical damage to your computer, or theft, can leave you without your data.

There is plenty of data backup software out there to choose from. The most trustworthy will come as part of a larger security suite, though these can be a little more expensive.

Use a VPN

A VPN helps protect your data from prying eyes, especially when using public WiFi. It's much easier for hackers to access your online activity on a public connection than it is when you're on a private secured network. A VPN encrypts your data, so any would-be hackers won't be able to see sensitive information like your passwords or bank card numbers.

You can get a VPN as part of an online security package, though you may need to pay a subscription. Usually, you'll be able to use your package across multiple devices, meaning you can protect your laptop and phone from one subscription.

Use passcodes on all your devices

Just as a strong password is important for protecting your online accounts, you should always protect your devices with a good passcode.

Laptops, MacBooks and phones all generally prompt you to create passcodes during setup, so make sure you don’t ignore this step.

Like with passwords, we recommend using a unique passcode on each of your devices.

More Information about keeping your account secure

You can find more help and support for security issues, including what to do if you’ve been the victim of online fraud or cybercrime, on our security hub.

Learn more about online security.

Has this helped?

Let's try something else

We've got other ways of helping