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Top tips for staying safe online

The internet can often feel like a dangerous place, with criminals trying to trick you into revealing your passwords and personal details in the form of phishing emails. Or people pretending to be someone they're not in chat rooms or forums, but the good news is if you follow our hints below the internet needn't be so scary.


At TalkTalk we want to help you avoid internet nasties, so we've developed HomeSafe®.

HomeSafe® lets you control the type of websites that can be accessed by the devices connected to your TalkTalk home broadband. It's great for parents, letting you block unsuitable material or ensuring homework time is free from distractions like social media.

HomeSafe® is quick and easy to set up. There's no software to install, and it doesn't slow your computers or devices down. Best of all, it’s free, as part of your TalkTalk service. For information on Homework Time, Kids Safe and Virus Alerts see How to use TalkTalk HomeSafe. 

Kids Safe is part of our free HomeSafe® package designed to protect children online. We've made this feature easy to control via My Account  so you can adjust it to your family's needs.




Want to know more about keeping safe and savvy?



Keeping your children safe online matters!

43% of children aged 12-15 own their own tablet. That's why we support Internet for all the advice and resource you need to protect your children online.


Just sit and think for a moment about what you have stored on your computer.

It probably includes many of the following: Precious photos of family and friends; videos of your children growing up; hundreds of pounds worth of music downloads; important work documents; letters you’ve sent; your youngsters’ coursework; and the list goes on and on.

Now imagine for a moment what would happen if that computer – whether it’s a PC or Mac, laptop, netbook or desktop – was to suddenly fail to work.

Have you made a backup of everything to be able to restore it?

If not, you could suffer either emotional trauma or financial loss if it was deleted by a computer virus, for example.

Hard drive failures are also very common. It is a crucial part of any computer but can also be the one most vulnerable to a breakdown because it has so many moving parts inside.

So how do you back up safely and also securely? Well, it’s easy. There are lots of ways to do it, and many of them won’t even cost a penny. 



However you backup is up to you, but it is crucial that you do it. Here are three tips for ensuring you manage your backups to get the most from them.


BE ORGANISED – Try not to have files strewn all over your computer’s desktop and hard drive. Organise them into folders, making sure they are named correctly as to what is saved inside. It will make it far easier to find things later.


BE CAREFUL – USB memory dongles are one of the easiest ways to spread computer viruses. If you use one as a backup device, keep it just for that. Don’t use the same stick to transfer files between machines. If your backup caught a virus, it would be absolutely useless.


BE SELECTIVE – If you are using a free online backup service, make sure you think about what you are saving in it. If space is limited and you don’t want to spend more money, only choose the files you couldn’t live without in the future. Perhaps copy other non-crucial things onto a CD or DVD, which are very inexpensive. Make sure you write on them though to show what you’ve got saved and keep them safe in a cupboard in a case or sleeve.


To ensure that access to your TalkTalk services is secure, your password must contain: 

  • Your password should be at least eight characters long.
  • Use special characters like ! ( ) - , . ? [ ] _ ~
  • Include upper and lower case letters
  • Include at least one number
  • Don't include spaces

And we recommend that you:

  • Don't use a word or phrase that is easy for people to guess, like your surname or pet's name.
  • Change your password on a regular basis.

Remember TalkTalk will never ask for your full password and we'll never send emails asking you to verify your account details. Emails like these are known as Phishing, and you can learn more in Phishing emails and everything you need to know

If you think that somebody knows your password, or somebody has access to your account, we recommend that you change your password. If your email address is stored in My Account, changing your password is easy, see Managing your email in My Account.


Every day in Britain, millions of emails are sent and received. Of these, around 80% are spam messages. These are like the junk mail letters you get through your front door, all trying to sell you something you don’t want, but most often, they have an even more sinister purpose behind them. 

Phishing is the biggest email problem to beware of. It's when you receive a message purporting to be from your bank or credit card company and asking you to reply with passwords and account details to confirm your identity. No bank, mobile phone network or credit card provider will ever ask you for your details in this way. But with spam so prevalent, it can be hard to see through the deluge in your inbox.

So here are ten tips – five Dos and five Don’ts – that should help prevent you from falling victim to these crooks and their bogus offers. 


Table showing the dos and don'ts when using email
Do Don't
Turn on the junk mail filtering system that is offered by your email provider. This will send spam into a separate folder you can check through and then empty. When a junk message slips through to your inbox, always mark it as spam to try and prevent it from happening again. Post your email address on a social network site, chatroom or webpage. Criminals use software to trawl these sites and identify email addresses, which they then harvest and turn into lists they sell on.
Break up your email address if you must post it publicly. Put spaces or extra characters in between, in different colours or fonts, so people can easily see what to remove to get the right address for you. Automated tools the hackers use will then not be able to recognise it. Reply to spam emails and ask to be removed. All this does is let the people sending it, know your address is live and active. This will only lead you to get more spam and junk in your inbox.
Share email inboxes with younger children so you can see who is contacting them and who they are sending messages to. It could prevent them from being cyberbullied or hassled by strangers intent on causing them harm. Use simple words or phrases as your email password. It means your account could easily be hacked by automated systems that try millions of different combinations of letters. Mix up your passwords and use numbers and special characters too. This will make them hard to identify. 
Beware of shortened links in emails. These are commonly used on social networks such as Twitter to create a link of fewer characters. But they won’t allow you to see what you are clicking on or where you are being taken to until it is too late. This means you could be diverted to a site containing a virus or spyware. Pass on junk mail. What might seem a harmless joke, poem, chain letter or funny story will simply clog up the internet and inboxes. Receiving so many of these types of messages are what cause people to be caught off-guard when a more sinister spam email arrives.
Check with friends and family if you’re unsure about a link they have sent you in an email. It is possible their account has been hacked and the message is being sent by a spammer to trick even more people. Believe everything you read. Spam emails will often have a false subject line to try and trick you into opening the message. It may be a tempting offer or the promise of something for nothing, but there will always be a catch. That could leave you open to all sorts of problems. 


Children and teenagers love to talk and gossip and there’s no better place for them to do so than on the internet.

Whether it’s with their friends, or in public forums with strangers, the online environment gives young people all the tools they need to connect with people around the world and swap stories and views.

Keeping out of danger in these areas should be the No.1 thing youngsters are taught about internet safety.

The answer isn’t to block them off from this virtual world. Instead, teach them some simple rules such as the ones below and help them stay away from potential harm.


Instant Messaging

  • Common IM systems are Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo, Google Talk or Skype, they also appear on social networks such as Facebook and on mobile phones.
  • Remind children never to add people to their ‘buddy’ list who they do not know in the real world and not to accept people to their list who claim to be friends of friends without checking first if they are for real.
  • Explain adults often pose as children to gain access to young people through instant messaging.
  • Ensure they know how to block and delete people who are causing them distress.
  • Show them the reporting buttons such as the CEOP one to tell the authorities about users who act inappropriately.
  • Do not allow young children to have a webcam in the bedroom, to prevent them being from coaxed into doing anything inappropriate on video.



  • These are public online chat forums. Some require sign-up but often they are open to anyone without providing details of their age or sex.
  • Anyone can enter them and pretend to be something or someone they are not.
  • Sit with your children as they chat, or monitor their usage closely.
  • Do not allow them to use a webcam with a chatroom pal unless you both know them personally.
  • Encourage children not to have usernames that are sexually suggestive or offensive.
  • Educate them to never lie about their age in a chatroom and never to give out personal details such as a mobile phone number or address.


Social networks 

  • You must be 13 or over to have a profile on many of these networks.
  • Sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo allow young people to create profiles and publish details of their lives to share with friends.
  • Help your children activate their built-in privacy controls.
  • Show your children how to block users and report abuse on Twitter. 
  • Do not let them post their mobile phone number, home address or school name.
  • Sign up for an account and become friends with your child to keep an eye on what they do.
  • Remind teenagers the information they display could be seen in the future by teachers, prospective employers and universities.
  • Make youngsters aware of the dangers of viruses and spyware that spread through social networks. Web links placed on profiles or someone’s ‘wall’ can lead to viruses.


Catching a computer virus is not as easy as catching a cold but like germs in the air, there are plenty of harmful digital germs flying around cyberspace.

But there are many simple ways to protect yourself from falling victim to either a virus or spyware. But what are they? Well…


COMPUTER VIRUSES - These are often known as Trojans or Worms and can delete all of your precious photos, documents and music from a hard drive, slow down your computer or make it totally unusable.

They spread through infected email attachments you open or links you click while surfing the web. They can also hide in infected websites or invade your computer via a USB memory dongle moved between machines.


SPYWARE – These are files or programs that sit invisibly in the background of your computer after you inadvertently download them.

This could be from an infected website, attachment or rogue webpage link.

Problems spyware cause range from unwanted pop-up adverts on your screen to copying passwords as you type them. This could let cybercriminals steal money from your bank account.


Virus busting

If you have anti-virus software installed on your computer, then you’re already one step ahead of the virus writers and cyber crooks.

But you must ensure it is set to automatically update, which means it will continually download the latest information so you are protected from outbreaks as they occur.

If you don't have virus software, you must get some. Find out more about our award-winning antivirus software, Super Safe Boost by visiting My Account.

Users of Microsoft’s Windows operating system can also switch on a free FIREWALL. This acts as a barrier to block hackers from attacking your system. But it can’t repair a virus infection like a full-on software package. It might also not be compatible with some anti-virus products you buy. It can though be easily switched off and their own in-built firewall used instead.

If you own an APPLE product then viruses and spyware aren’t as much of a problem. The vast majority are written to infect PCs because these are the most vulnerable to attack.

Your Apple operating system has its own firewall, so ensure it is switched on, to provide you with full protection.


How to avoid viruses and spyware

The best way to avoid catching a virus or downloading spyware is to be careful and sensible while on the web. Here are some quick tips that should help you do that.

  1. Don’t click links on your friends’ social network profiles unless you can be sure they put them there. This is a common way for spyware to spread.
  2. If a link is promising an offer, story or picture that feels too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t click it, it’s likely to be a scam.
  3. Don’t open attachments in emails unless you know who sent them. Even then, be wary because viruses can send you a message that looks like it has come from an email address you know, such as a family member.
  4. You might feel you’re being helpful in passing on an email warning of a virus, but you’re not. Often these are invented by cybercriminals to trick people into clicking links that DO contain harmful elements.
  5. Educate your children at a young age about the dangers of viruses and spyware. As they grow up, they are more likely to accidentally cause you an infection when their curiosity gets the better of them, and they select something they shouldn’t.
  6. Always back up your files. If a virus strikes, once it is removed from your hard drive, you can then put everything back where it belongs without losing anything.  

Teaching your children how to use the internet safely is just as important as teaching them how to cross the road using the Green Cross code.

So when your youngsters are online, whether alone or with you by their side, it’s also as crucial to explaining to them why they should stick to the Click Clever Click Safe code.

Launched in 2010 for Safer Internet Day, the code features three simple and memorable actions to remember. Find out more about Click Clever, Click Safe.


Advice for children

Zip it

  • Never tell people online what school you go to, your home address or place stuff like your email details or mobile phone number on social network profiles.
  • Use a nickname in chatrooms and for instant messaging instead of your real name.
  • Don’t give out your passwords, even to friends, to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of cyberbullying.

Block it

  • Always delete emails from people you don’t know and never open attachments or click on links unless you can be 100 per cent sure what they are. They could hide a virus.
  • Learn how to block and delete anyone you come into contact with who makes you feel scared, worried, uncomfortable or just doesn’t seem right.

Flag it

  • If you don’t feel you can talk to your parents about something encountered online, then speak to a teacher, adult relative or a friend’s parent. Or call free to Childline on 0800 1111.
  • Never meet anyone you only know in the online world. Just because they say they are a child or teenager, it doesn’t mean they are.
  • Don’t be afraid to report someone who upsets you online. See Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command for more advice.