A virus is a piece of software that can destroy pictures, documents or other files on your computer's hard drive. A virus can also stop programs or even your whole computer from working.
Computer viruses are often transferred to your computer by email and in files that you download from the internet. They can attach themselves to email messages and pretend to be something else, such as a photo or video clip. So don't open attachments from people you don't know, or download programs from the internet that you're not absolutely sure are safe.
One variety of virus, called a Trojan (after the mythical wooden horse), will hide away on your computer, waiting for another trigger, such as a specific time and date or for a certain set of conditions to arise.
Worms are different to viruses in that they don't need a host program or an already-infected operating system, and can replicate stand-alone to cause similar damage to viruses.
For these reasons, some form of anti-virus protection is a must-have these days.
BT Virus Protect will find, block and delete computer viruses, Trojans and worms so that they can't do any damage to your computer. But it does a whole lot more besides:
- Firewall, virus and spyware protection
- Warns you from email phishing scams
- Scans and patches software vulnerabilitites on your computer
- Identity theft protection
- Additional features like parental controls
Spyware and adware is malicious software that installs itself on your computer, tracks your surfing habits and collects personal data that's then sent back to the creators. The software can run behind the scenes: you might not even know it's there until it reveals itself.
Spyware is created to collect details about what websites you visit, your usernames and passwords, and even your login details for your online bank account. One of the most common types of spyware is the 'keylogger'. This records exactly what keys you type on your keyboard. It can then match this information with the web page you were looking at.
Adware is much less discreet and presents you with pop-up and 'pop-under' adverts. It can also redirect your browser's home page away from the site that you've chosen.
It's easy to think that hackers are only interested in corporate business networks. However, there is a growing trend for hackers to select 'easy targets' for their personal gain. A hacker who gains access to your computer could soon get personal details about you, such as name, address, bank account and credit card details.
Hackers often gather information from different sources to try and guess passwords to your secure accounts. It's essential to keep passwords secure and choose ones that are hard to guess.
Internet scams can take many forms, from 'phishing', where a fake email or web site will try to get you to part with your bank account information, to scams pretending to be from online auction, job or other websites that try to collect your personal data.Not sure if an email you've received is genuine? Don't click on it, and never give out your account or bank details. Stay safe by being aware of "phishing" and other scams that might find their way into your inbox.
You can also find out how to avoid different types of scam and find ot about the latest scams at bt.com/scams. This site is written in partnership with Action Fraud, the UK's national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime.
Identity theft is when someone pretends to be you, usually to carry out a fraud that could cost you money or affect your credit rating. Criminals need your personal data to commit identity theft, so be aware of where and how fraudsters might try to get it.
Information you post online can provide fraudsters with crucial personal details such as your date of birth. Comments, pictures and other content posted online could also embarrass you in the future, for example if they're seen by a potential employer for example. Remember, what goes online stays online.
If your email account has been compromised, your messages may have been read and if these contain any sensitive personal information you should act to protect your identity. If we suspect your email account has been compromised, we'll act at once to secure it by making you change your password.
If your email account has been compromised it can potentially be used to send spam emails or viruses to people in your address book, or to carry out fraud. Sometimes your email address may be spoofed.
Spoofing is a technique used by spammers where an email is sent with a forged 'From' address, in this case yours. With spoofing, emails are made to look as though they come from you, although in fact they don't. If your contacts were stolen when your account was initially compromised, spammers can send emails to your contacts by forging the sending address.
Many people now use wireless (wi-fi) technology to connect their computers to the internet. BT's Smart Hub comes with wireless security enabled so at home there's nothing more you need to do. When out and about always look for a secure connection and avoid using the hotspots of people or businesses you don't know or trust.
Email accounts are also now regularly compromised by people checking emails on smartphones on unsecured wi-fi networks. The smartphone stores your account details and each time you log into your email account both the username and password are sent. If somebody else is using the same open wi-fi network on an infected computer, that computer can harvest your credentials. This is now common with Blackberry phones, iPhones, iPads and similar devices. So make sure the connection you're using is safe.
Ways you can protect yourself online
These days, anti-virus software is a must-have as it'll deal with the vast majority of common threats. All our broadband options now come with our best anti-virus, BT Virus Protect included at no extra cost. Installation to device needed (PCs, Macs, Android phones and tablets). BT Virus Protect scans for malicious code in apps, SD cards, files and online to safeguard customers' personal and confidential information.
All broadband options also come with BT Web Protect, which works quite differently to BT Virus Protect. Using them together will give comprehensive protection for you and your family.
BT Web Protect helps protect you from viruses, scams and phishing attacks by warning you if you're about to visit a potentially harmful website.
With no software to download, BT Web Protect is quick and easy to set up and it'll protect every device connecting to your BT Home Hub. It'll even protect you when you're out and about logged in with your BTID on any BT Wi-fi hotspots in the UK.
BT Virus Protect protects up to 2 or 15 PCs or Macs (depending on your broadband package) and works on any broadband connection, so you can shop, email or chat with complete peace of mind. It will find, block and delete computer viruses so that they can't do any damage to your computer. But it does a whole lot more besides:
- Firewall, virus and spyware protection
- Email phishing scam warning system
- Identity theft protection
- Additional features like parental controls
To check which version you get and to download, go to www.bt.com/mybt >
Keep your family safe online with BT Parental Controls. All our broadband options comes with BT Parental Controls security included and at no extra cost.
Our Parental control software helps keep everybody safe by reducing the risk of connecting to inappropriate websites that might also pose a threat to your security. You can completely personalise it to your family's needs.
With no software to download, BT Parental Controls is quick and easy to set up and it'll protect every device connecting to your BT Home Hub. It'll even protect you when you're out and about on any BT Wi-fi hotspots in the UK.
You can activate BT Web Protect at https://www.bt.com/turnonbtprotect >
To activate Parental Controls to block access to peer-to-peer websites, go to https://www.bt.com/pc/manage >
A firewall is a piece of software that stops unauthorised access to your computer system. Firewalls can stop all kinds of hacking attempts. If kept up to date, your firewall will monitor all the incoming and outgoing connections between your computer and the internet, and let you know immediately if anything suspicious is found. A firewall is included along with anti-virus and anti-spyware software in most good quality security packages, including BT Virus Protect >
The BT Home Hub also has a built-in firewall.
These stop unwanted emails and web browser 'pop-up' windows appearing on your computer. All the main browsers now have pop-up blockers built in.
You can avoid most spam emails by using the spam filters in your webmail or email program. You can also help stop threats from spam emails and pop-ups by not opening attachments or clicking on web links in any emails or pop-up windows that look suspicious - even if they seem to have been sent by people or companies you know.
Look for the lock icon at the bottom of your web browser whenever you log in to a web site to buy something or visit any kind of online account. You can also look for 'https' at the beginning of the web address. If either of these signs aren't there, your log in information might not be secure.
You can also look for the VeriSign or ISIS logos - these mean the web site you're on has been verified by these online security organisations, but these logos won't necessarily be included on all secure sites.
By keeping your password a secret, and making sure it can't be easily guessed, you're reducing the likelihood that anyone else will get access to your account. Make sure your password is at least eight characters long, contains both numbers and letters, and isn't a common pattern such as acbd1234. It's also better not to use the same password for lots of sites or accounts just in case someone finds it out.
Passwords are part of modern online life, and remembering them all can be an effort. This is why all our broadband options come with Norton Password Manager at no extra cost.
Using Norton Password Manager, you can generate strong and unique passwords and store them for a hassle-free way of signing into devices, apps and websites across all your devices (on PCs, iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Android phones and tablets).
From scammers to viruses, the best way to stay safe online is to stay up-to-date and be aware of risks. Online security products from reputable providers should automatically update to keep you protected from the latest threats. You can also switch your computer's operating system to receive automatic updates so you can stay up-to-date automatically.
More help and information
BT has signed up to an ISP voluntary code of practice which reinforces BT's commitment to help families keep their children safe online. Find out more about the code of practice >
We've also signed up to the European Code of Practice. Find out more >
Internet Matters - Get information, advice and support to keep your children safe online >
Get Safe Online - Free expert advice on staying safe online >
IWF (Internet Watch Foundation) - The UK hotline for reporting criminal online content >
Think U Know - Find out what's good, what's not and what you can do about it >