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Why out-of-date technology is costing you more than you think

Despite more than a year of lockdowns, we are more connected than ever before through technology.

But this reliance on technology also makes us vulnerable to cybercrime.

The City of London Police, the force that runs Action Fraud, received 3,916 reports of cybercrime worth almost £3m during the first month of lockdown alone.

As we all turned to home working, taking on numerous new online accounts and dusting down the old home PC, the rates of cybercrime soared by 72% in just a few short weeks.

Now that we’re emerging, blinking, into real-life connectivity, millions of people around the UK and across the world are being warned of the risks that lurk in the out-of-date technology littering our homes.

Of course, we’re told to keep using our computers and devices for as long as possible in a bid to help curb the mountains of e-waste we produce every year. What’s more, holding onto and carefully maintaining our old tech saves us money.

But if we don’t keep our technology up to date, we are unwittingly making it easier for hackers to get in and rampage through our personal details and, ultimately, our financial affairs.

Double the risk

Any product that we’ve had long enough that it no longer receives security updates from the manufacturer is unlikely to have the latest security measures in place. That leaves us more vulnerable than we may realise.

Security vulnerabilities in old tech are more likely to be known to attackers and we’re less likely to realise such attacks have happened at all. It’s enough to make you wish for the days of letter and phone calls.

But we’re not about to go backwards. Nor are we going to drop thousands of pounds on the latest versions of every smart device we have.

Rates of cybercrime soared by 72% during the first month of lockdown

So what steps can we take without blowing the budget or losing the will to live?

For starters, there’s a little help on the way. The UK government is planning new legislation covering smart devices that will oblige manufacturers to make it clear to customers how long their devices will continue to automatically receive security software updates.

The same rules will make it easier for all of us to report a security vulnerability. All internet-enabled devices will also need a unique password. Never again will ‘Password123’ get you onto every wifi network in your postcode.

But what about the tech we already have?

Embrace the update

There’s plenty of sounds, yet standard, advice that will help protect you from cybercrime more broadly.

That includes never accessing personal or financial information from your phone or other smart devices while using a public network, turning off your wireless connection, GPS, and the like whenever you’re not using them, and nurturing a healthy suspicion over links and attachments.

Remember to only download apps from a reputable source and routinely delete any old ones that you no longer use.

But it’s also vital to keep all your devices as up-to-date as possible when it comes to the latest operating software and app updates. The same goes for antivirus software.

Make sure your computer has a firewall installed and check that the browser you use is set to the highest level of monitoring and security to help reduce the chances of cold-sweat-inducing malware incidents.

Only download apps from a reputable source and routinely delete any old ones you no longer use

Lock it down

Give everything you can its own unique, strong password, especially your email account. It should be at least 8 characters (but preferably plenty more) made up of a broad range of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.

Don’t be tempted by the auto-complete features that generate passwords for you either.

Make sure your devices lock out after a few minutes of inactivity, if the device is lost or stolen, or when there have been too many failed attempts to gain access.

Finally, make the most of two-factor authentication – the process of double-checking a login by, for example, sending the user a unique code to their registered phone number or email address.

Enable it wherever possible, it might just stop you from becoming a statistic one day.

Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.

3 things to do
right now

1

Keep up to date on major security breaches and if you have an account on a website that’s been affected, change your password immediately.

2

If you share tech with your kids, make sure that you talk to them about online safety and keep an eye on their accounts.

3

Protect your wi-fi network so that people living nearby can't access it. Read the instructions that come with your wireless router to find out how to set up a 'key' so that no one else can access the internet through your router.

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