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With the rise of smartphones and the adoption of always-connected 'smart' speakers and devices, the line between being online and offline is becoming increasingly blurred. At the same time, the threats we face online continue to grow and evolve, as criminals respond to the new opportunities. Fortunately, Dr Ian Batten, a cyber security expert at the University of Birmingham, shares some simple tips for staying safe online.

Dr Batten, who is the course director of the University's GCHQ-certified cyber security masters/MSc course, believes staying calm is key to staying safe online:

"Fraudsters don't want you to think, they want you to act. Instead of following instructions from strangers, ask the opinion of someone you trust. Nothing's so urgent that it can't wait until tomorrow, nothing's so secret that you can't ask for advice."

Dr Batten also recommends setting a different password for every site you use, explaining: “all too often, if a criminal can access your account on one site, they can access all your accounts. Make it harder for them”. Password managers like LastPass and 1Password can help make it easier to remember passwords. Two-factor or two-step authentication, where a code is sent to your phone which you must enter as well as your password before you can access your account, can make your accounts even more secure.

"All software has bugs and they take time to find and time to fix", explains Dr Batten, before adding "newer software fixes old bugs but also adds news protections against new threats. Old software leaves you vulnerable". Getting into the habit of regularly updating your software makes life harder for criminals to exploit bugs in software to gain access to your online life.

HM Government Cyber Aware website

Cyber Security Masters/MSc