Further Study:

Staying safe online

Malware is software that is specifically designed to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorised access to a computer system. 

Email is one of the primary methods of delivering dangerous malware to your computer, but with the rise of social media and apps, criminals are getting increasingly sophisticated in getting you to perform actions that compromise your devices and personal details.

Hover over each panel to learn more about malware that can infect your computer.  


Malware (shortened form for malicious software) is a general term for software that attempts to enter and collect data or harm computers.

Depending on the actions that a malware performs, it can have specific names such as ransomware, adware or spyware.

Viruses, worms and Trojans are also malware, that can take over, corrupt or irrevocably damage the computer software.


This is a type of cyber attack that activates a program within a computer system to cause damage to computer files. In many cases the term is used interchangeably with malware.

When a program is infected with a virus, the virus code is run. The operating system on the computer thinks it is part of a genuine program and allows the virus to copy itself, install in memory or make changes to the computer.

Adware and spyware

Adware and spyware are less aggressive forms of malware. They don't attack your system, but gather information without your knowledge.

Adware is designed to push advertising on your computer or tablet, which is the cause of annoying popups.

Spyware is software that permits advertisers and hackers to gather sensitive information without your permission. When spyware runs on the computer, it may track your activity and report it to criminals.


A particularly nasty malware that attacks files and eventually 'digitally kidnaps' your computer, encrypting your system and demanding a ransom to unlock it.

It can be sent as an attachment or what appears to be a legitimate email that encourages you to click on a link. 

Certain high profile ransomware attacks have had a serious impact including the one which crippled the NHS.

Trojan and worms

Worms can function without the need to be attached to a program. 

They 'worm' their way into networks and computers by finding gaps in coding. They can damage systems, making it act strangely or destroy files.

Trojanware enters a computer when users follow a link in spam email or visit a malicious web page. When the user goes online, the person who sent the malware can take control of the computer, access files or send out spam email.


Cookies are small pieces of computer codes stored on your computer from sites that you visit.

They are generally not dangerous, recording what you have browsed in the past and how long you spent on a site, in order to tailor your experience.

It is a website’s sneaky way of getting information about you and with new privacy and electronic communication laws, companies must explicitly get your permission before they can install any cookies 

Password setting 

Passwords are the gateways to your digital existence. They verify who you are to your computer, smartphone, company portal, online banking app, social media accounts and supermarket delivery accounts, for example.

Setting strong passwords and maintaining password security is essential. 

Click on the sections below for suggestions to improve your password security

Government guidelines now recommend that as long as a strong password is chosen there is no need to change it unless malicious actions have been identified. The more frequently a person changes their password the more likely they are to write it down or just increment a number at the end.

It is recommended that you don't leave passwords on display e.g. on postage notes. This will obviously make it easy for anyone to obtain the login details they need.

Don't be lazy with your passwords. Don't choose something common or predictable. Choosing something like password or 1234 is like leaving the front door of your house open. Passwords should be at least 8 characters long and contain letters, a capital letter, numbers and ideally a special character (e.g. *, & or $).

Try taking a phrase, such as "I lived at number eight Arcadia Avenue for 10 years" and turning it into a password by using first letters, random upper-case letters and special characters. For example, this phrase could become "il@n8AA410y".


Logging off and shutting down

Make sure your computer has a login password!

It is not a good idea to leave the computer switched on and logged on when you are away from the machine. 

It is advisable to press and hold the Windows key then press the L key (Win+L), this will lock the screen back to the login screen. You can simply unlock the screen by entering your login password.

If you are finishing work for the day, it is recommended that you shut down your computer.

The above steps will stop someone else using your computer when you are not near your machine because they will have to log in using your password!

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