Staying safe online during a pandemic

26th March 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen support being offered from all parts of society, as well as innovative solutions and tools being developed and implemented. Nevertheless, in a rapidly changing environment, it’s important that we all take steps to ensure that we stay safe in our online interactions, particularly when there are so many COVID-19-related scams to trick people into sharing their personal data or to gain access to their devices.

Here are some tips on how to stay safe online and ensure that your personal data, particularly sensitive data such as health data, is only shared with or accessed by trusted recipients.

Read more: Protecting Personal Data When Working Remotely

Tips for Staying Safe Online

  • Always consider who you are sharing your personal data with, and aim to limit your sharing of sensitive personal data (such as health data) with trusted recipients, such as government departments, public health officials, healthcare professionals, or other recipients suggested or endorsed by them.
  • Pause and take a few minutes to read over the privacy policy or data protection notice of a service, app, or website, to be sure who your personal data is being shared with, where it will be stored or processed, and what purposes it will be used for, amongst other important information.
  • If data protection or privacy policy information is inadequate or not available, you should be wary of sharing personal data with this service, app, or website, and may want to take further steps, such as contacting them, to clarify.
  • Even when you are considering sharing personal data with a trusted recipient through an app, website, SMS, or email, make sure that it is actually them you are sharing the personal data with, and not just and app, website, phone number, or email address, which is disguised to look like it’s theirs.
  • Be wary of links that are forwarded by SMS, messaging apps, or email, particularly if you’re not expecting them or you think it has been automatically forwarded, as this is a common way to spread malicious links.
  • Avoid clicking links or opening attachments that you are unsure about. In particular, be wary of attachments which you were not expecting. Keep in mind that displayed text for a link can look like a legitimate URL, but the link when you click it may lead somewhere else.
  • Pay attention to links in emails and on webpages that you connect to. Try hovering over the link before you click it; you should see the destination URL at the bottom right of your browser. Is it familiar to you? If not, think again about using it.
  • Ensure you have up-to-date antivirus or online security software installed on all of your devices – don’t forget that smartphones and tablets are just in need of antivirus and malware protection these days as laptops or desktops.

Read more

Data Protection and COVID-19

Common Online Risks

Guidance on Phishing and Social Engineering Attacks

Guidance on Data Security