Online dangers

The internet is a fantastic resource that helps us to learn, share, communicate and find entertainment. It has billions of users who use it for legitimate reasons. However, there are others who use the internet for illegal and unsavoury purposes.

There are several dangers that we might come across when online:

Taking simple precautions can help to reduce or prevent exposure to such dangers.

Malware

Malware (short for malicious software) are programs that install and run on your computer without your knowledge or consent. Malware is often downloaded from email attachments or websites that are not properly protected. Some websites are designed to trick you into downloading and installing malware. Once installed, malware usually (but not always) causes harm to the computer or user by deleting data or gaining access to personal information.

Some malware is designed to copy itself and spread to other computers via email attachments that are sent from the infected computer. This type of malware is known as a virus. Another type of malware spies on users’ activities, usually to steal financial details and passwords. This type of malware is known as spyware. Other types of malware include trojans and zombies.

Once infected, it can be difficult to rid a computer of malware. Special programs called anti-virus software are required to clean malware off a computer.

Devices without antivirus software infected with viruses

Phishing

You might receive emails from someone pretending to be someone you know. The emails are designed to trick you into giving away personal information, such as your usernames and passwords. For example, an email might appear to be sent from a social media website. It might say that a password needs resetting, and might provide a link to reset it. The link would lead to a fake website which looks exactly like the real site. This site will capture your details, allowing an unsavoury character access to your accounts.

Phishing emails are often quite easy to spot. Although at first glance they may look very much like a genuine email from a company or website, on closer examination they often contain spelling or grammatical errors. Always remember that it is rare that a website will genuinely send you an email asking for your username and password.

Unsavoury characters and cyberbullying

Most people use the internet safely and responsibly, but some use it for illegal or unsavoury activities. They do it to make money or to behave badly in a situation where they think that no-one can identify them.

It is not always possible to be sure who sends emails or posts a comment to a social media account. Many people pretend to be someone else online, sometimes for fun but sometimes because they intend to harm others, through cyberbullying, theft or trolling.

Trolling is the term given to people who visit other peoples’ social media accounts and leave distasteful messages.

Cyberbullying is the bullying of another person using the internet, mobile phones and other digital devices. Cyberbullying can take the form of posts on forums or social media, text messages or emails, all with the aim of hurting the victim.