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Safety on the Internet


Zoom is a video conferencing app. Zoom Bombing is a cyber-attack on your video call where an individual or a group of people enter the call without the permission of the host. These individuals then display offensive or explicit images in order to cause distress to the recipients.

Video conferencing helps many people work remotely and allows us to stay in touch with our families and friends. Unfortunately as worldwide use of video conferencing continues to increase, so has the volume of cyber-attacks.

The links in Related Information provide details of how to secure your Zoom meeting and prevent unwanted people joining.

If you have experienced Zoom Bombing, this can be reported to Zoom and depending on the nature of the content, your local police force.


Phishing is a cyber crime where criminals contact people by email, telephone or text message, pretending to be a legitimate organisation. They try to get people to provide personal information such as bank details and passwords, and often include links that once clicked, download a virus to your computer and steal personal information. The information is then used to access accounts and can result in identity theft and financial loss.

Be aware of suspicious messages and emails and do not click on links or attachments in them. Never respond to unsolicited messages that ask for your personal or financial details.

If you do receive a suspicious email, this can be reported to National Cyber Security Centre via their Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) Any suspected frauds committed by email can be send to Action Fraud. See Q680 and Q749 for further information regarding fraud and see the links in Related Information to report any suspicious or fraudulent emails.


Chatrooms can be a fun pastime for your children. However, there are dangers involved with using chatrooms that both parents and children need to be aware of.

Some people use the internet and chatrooms as a method to gain contact with children and subsequently enter into inappropriate and illegal relationships, as they can create false identities and remain anonymous. They may use a method known as 'grooming', which involves using deceiving techniques build a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them. This may include creating different personas or posing as a child themselves.  There is a government website which gives a more comprehensive overview of this activity and has a version for parents and children which sets out the possible dangers of communicating with strangers online and how to make chatrooms a safer place to be - Thinkuknow, see Related Information for that and other helpful websites.

A few basic tips to be aware of when using internet chatrooms are;-

  • Never give out any personal details
  • Always be wary, some users on the internet are not who they say they are
  • Never arrange to meet anyone you have met through a chatroom unless you are 100% sure they are who they say they are. Even then, tell your parents, take them or another responsible adult with you and always meet in a public place.


This is almost certainly a scam and you should delete or ignore the communication. There are different versions of scams and you must remember- if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Below are some examples of the methods scammers may use:

  • 'Phishing' is the term used for a scam that attempts to induce you to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit cards numbers. In the case of a dating agency, it is preying on people who are lonely and want friendship. For any similar scenario, if you are asked for and give money (and it is a scam), it is unlikely you will ever see your money again.
  • Telling you that you are a long lost relative of a recently deceased person, you have been chosen to inherit a large amount of money from a person who does not have any living relatives.
  • Lottery scams may ask you to pay out in order to receive your winnings. No real lottery company would ask you to pay a fee before being able to claim your prize nor are large amounts of money handed out randomly. If you receive an email and it is not genuine, do not respond.
  • Informing you that your computer has been hacked and you need to pay a 'ransom' in bitcoin . Further information on, and examples of this can be found in related information.
  • You may receive a letter purporting to be from the police confirming the authenticity of a letter regarding a lottery win. The police do not authenticate commercial organisations.

To protect yourself from scammers, here are some useful tips:

    • If you were a long lost relative it is unlikely that the executors would make contact with you via email.
    • Is the phone number a mobile? A mobile call using a UK number can be made from anywhere in the world.
    • Solicitors and executors of wills do not just hand over large sums of money without very thorough checks.
    • Payment for the execution of a will comes out of the deceased person's estate, not from the people likely to receive a bequest.

It is better to thoroughly check out the situation rather than pay out a large sum of money on the basis of an email, electronic message, letter or phone call. Remember:

  • NEVER give out your personal details, bank account details or send any money to anyone who sends you such a communication, unless you are satisfied it is genuine. Many people have been defrauded out of a lot of money.
  • No matter how official it sounds check it out using a totally independent source.
  • They may lie about being based in the UK as this may make the scams seem more believable.
  • The addresses used are fake or reputable names of companies but with the wrong number.

Scam emails can be reported directly to Action Fraud, please see the link in related information.


People are being increasingly targeted via social networking sites. Anybody who can get access to your personal information can do this; whether it is a former partner/friend or someone you have never met before. This is why it is extremely important to protect yourself when using sites such as Facebook /Twitter.
You should always be cautious about including any of the following information:

  • Name;
  • Address;
  • Telephone numbers/Email addresses;
  • Education / Employment information;
  • Photographs which may show your home and any valuables you may own;
  • Date of Birth;
  • Status updates/comments which may state when you are not at home, when you are going on holiday, what expensive items you have recently bought etc.

Be wary of including 'friends of friends' in your privacy settings, as this effectively allows anybody, to view your information. The anonymity of the internet makes it easy for people to lie about their identity; so be wary of accepting strangers who send you a friend request. They could be pretending to be someone else (e.g. lying about their gender/age) in order to persuade another person to agree to meet up with them, when in actual fact they have criminal intentions.

Also, if you add someone who you do not know, they may begin to ask you questions over time and aim conversations to particular subjects, in order to find out more information about you. If they already have your email address, they could log in to that account using the information you have given them and answer your security questions/reset your passwords. Once they have done this and have access to your personal emails, they could be gaining access to your bank details, online shopping accounts, PayPal etc. and use these to take money from your accounts or buy goods in your name.

'Internet matters' and 'Cyberstreet Wise' are websites that offer advice on using social networking securely and what safeguarding measures to take. You will find links to these, and other helpful websites, in the related information section.


Many city centres and cafes offer free wireless internet connections that can be accessed using a laptop or mobile telephone. When the device is asked to search for nearby wireless connections, the device will display a list of available networks and connect to the network that you select.

Increasingly, hackers are setting up their own networks in public places that will also appear on the network lists. These will appear identical to the genuine networks e.g. BT, Sky etc.

Once connected to a hacker's network you will probably be directed to a bogus website asking you for personal information such as bank details and passwords.

Be wary of any websites or emails asking for details. See the question on 'phishing' and links in Related Information for further details.


No, copying for private use/copying and lending/copying and selling songs, films, or images from the internet without permission is illegal under UK copyright laws. The penalties for such copyright offences vary but can lead to large fines or imprisonment. Please see the link in Related Information for the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) website for more details and advice on how to stay within the law.

There are a few specific exceptions to Copyright law, please see the link under Related Information for more information.


The offence of revenge porn occurs when a person publishes/ shares/ discloses a private sexual photograph or film, without the consent of the person who appears in the photograph or film, or threatens to do so, intending to cause that person distress. It is not enough that the person appearing in the photograph or film is distressed, as there must be an intention to cause that person distress, hence the offence being referred to as revenge porn. It is not an offence if the photograph or film is shown only to the person who appears in the photograph or film. It does not have to be published on the internet, it can be sent via text message or shown in person.

There are some defences to this offence -

  • That the material was disclosed as journalistic material and it was in the public interest to do so.
  • That the material had been previously disclosed for reward (for example, someone selling a sex tape of themselves to a newspaper) and that there was no reason to believe that the person appearing in the image or video had not consented to that disclosure.
  • That the disclosure was necessary to prevent, detect or investigate crime.

A person found guilty of this offence may face a fine or even imprisonment. If you believe that you have been the victim of revenge porn then contact your local police via their website, or by dialling 101. A victim of revenge porn can also get advice from the revenge porn helpline, see link in Related Information.

For circumstances that do not fit the above see Q697 for further information.


Cyberbullying is any form of bullying that takes place online. This could be blackmail/threats, abusive comments, spreading rumours, sharing embarrassing pictures or creating fake profiles on social networking sites.

Though there is no specific offence of cyberbullying, you could be found guilty under an existing offence. For example, sending someone threatening, abusive messages can lead to an offence of harassment (Q770) and posting sexual photographs of someone without their consent could be a criminal offence under the revenge porn law. (Q834).

Victims of Cyberbullying may be unaware as to what help is available to them. If the bullying is taking place on a social networking site (Facebook, Twitter etc.) you should contact them directly as they have policies in place to remove inappropriate material and if necessary, the bully's account, see link in related information.

If you are a child/young person then contact Childline for more help and guidance, see link in related information.

The behaviour could potentially amount to a criminal offence, we would suggest that you contact your local policing team via the non-emergency 101 number and report the matter.


Radicalisation is the process whereby an individual adopts extreme religious, social or political ideals. It can take place in many forms but is particularly prevalent on social media. Terrorist groups such as Islamic State are targeting vulnerable young people, who may be interested in what such groups have to offer

An individual vulnerable to radicalisation would show a change in their behaviour and those close to the person (e.g. teachers or family members) may notice, this could include spending vast amounts of time on the internet, bullying, race crime or anti-social behaviour. In extreme cases, it can lead to the individual committing an act of terrorism.

Many strategies are being put in place to tackle this problem, including the PREVENT programme (see Q941 for more details.) If you are concerned that someone you know is at risk of radicalisation, we would advise that you contact your local policing team via 101. Additionally, you can report suspicious online activity to GOV.UK - report online material promoting terrorism or extremism.


Grooming can occur face to face or over the internet and involves any communication with a child in order to commit a sexual offence. The individual does this by forming an emotional bond with the child to gain their trust - this can then lead to the offence of child sexual exploitation (CSE) being committed.

If a child is being groomed they may display unusual behaviours which you need to look out for; these may include -

  • becoming anxious or clingy
  • change in eating habits
  • self harm/suicidal
  • taking drugs or alcohol
  • missing school

If you are concerned about a child, you can contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 or you can report it directly to them via the following link -

NSPCC - report child abuse

For further support and advice on grooming and CSE, please see the links in related information.


Computer hacking is where people gain unauthorised access to information that is held on a computer. This can range from guessing someone's password to a 'global cyber security threat known as a 'ransomware attack.'

Ransomware can take two forms - it will either encrypt the files on a computer or lock a user's screen. In both cases the user will need a key in order to use the computer again. Of course the hacker will require payment for this, the amount demanded will vary and there is no guarantee the key will be provided.

You can minimise the risk of being infected by ransomware by taking the same precautions necessary to guard against malware in general. You should have good access control by keeping an eye on permissions used on shared computers and have a back up of your data.

Below is list of do's and don'ts when picking a password - remember the harder it is to guess, the less likely you are to be hacked.

  • Don't reuse an old password
  • Use a different password for each website
  • Don't use dictionary words
  • Avoid dates of birth and other personal information that can be found online
  • Avoid patterns such as '1234', 'ABCDE '
  • Mix lower and upper case letters, and symbols
  • Make sure you have installed the latest security updates and
  • Do not set your browser to remember your password

If you have been the victim of this or any other form of computer hacking, there are a number of organisations you can contact. Please see the websites in related information for further guidance.


Using online dating websites is becoming a popular way to meet people and potentially find love. Scammers take advantage of this and use the sites as an opportunity to scam victims out of money by claiming they have developed feelings for them, or even pretending to be someone else entirely (also known as 'cat fishing').

The same common sense approach must be used as with any scam - if it seems to good to be true, it probably is! If someone is asking you to transfer money, it is likely they are not who they say they are and it is important to be wary of what they are telling you, no matter how believable their story seems.

Below are a few tips to ensure you stay safe online and know what signs to look out for:

  • Pick a reputable dating website.
  • Avoid over sharing and divulging your personal information.
  • Never send money or give out your bank details; once the money is sent, it is highly unlikely you will be able to retrieve it.
  • Do their pictures look too good to be true, or you think you have seen them somewhere else? Use this service to find out: search an image on Google
  • Ask lots of questions and suggest arranging a phone call to determine whether they are genuine.
  • Be sceptical - if you are suspicious, report your concerns initially to the dating website.
  • If you have lost money due to an online scam, you can report it to Action Fraud.

For further information, please see the related websites section.

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