Internet & computer security

Everyone should enjoy their time online, but it's also a good idea to be aware of the risks – avoid online fraud and email 'phishing' scams, protect your computer from hackers and viruses, and make sure your kids are safe online.

Staying secure online

The internet will continue to evolve quickly, it seems we can do almost anything online – but with convenience comes the need to protect your
PC and your family online. Find out how to help keep you and your family safe online.

Find out how to help keep you and your family safe

Helping your kids stay safe

Having fun, learning and interacting online can seem totally natural
for children, but like every other walk of life, adult guidance is essential.
BT Parental Controls and Family Protection is included with all broadband products.

Find out more about helping kids use the web safely

Avoiding email scams

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.

Find out how to avoid email scams

More Information / Our partners

BT has signed up to an ISP voluntary code of practice which reinforces BT's commitment of helping families keep their children safe when online. Find out more about the code of practice

BT has also signed up to the European Code of Practice. Find out more


    The UK Council for Child Internet Safety.
  • CEOP

    Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.
  • Get Safe Online
    Get Safe Online

    Free expert advice on staying safe online.
  • IWF

    The UK Hotline for reporting criminal online content.
  • Family &
    Think U Know

    Find out what's good, what's not and what you can do about it.
  • Family friendly
    Family friendly

    A nationwide scheme that lets you speak up for a family friendly UK.

Staying secure online

With just a few simple steps and some common sense, you can help protect you and your family online – and it only takes a few minutes to get started.

What are the risks?

Most common security threats can be significantly reduced by installing a good security software package like
BT NetProtect Plus1 and arming you with some knowledge about what to watch out for:

Computer virus

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. Viruses can get on to your computer if you open an infected email, visit a malicious website, install an untrusted software application or copy infected files from a disk or storage device.


Hackers use various methods to try to access your personal data, and might try guessing passwords in order to access your secure accounts. It's essential that you keep your passwords secure and that they're 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.

Find out how to avoid email scams

Identity theft and threats to your privacy

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 try to get your personal data:

Compromised email account

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.

You can get more advice on steps to take in protecting your identity here.

Spyware is a computer program designed to steal personal data that can find its way on to your computer in similar ways to a virus

Information you post online can provide fraudsters with crucial personal information such as your date of birth. Comments, pictures and other content posted online could also embarrass you in the future, for example if it's seen by a potential employer for example. Remember, what goes online stays online!

Wireless security is easily overlooked. Many people now use wireless (Wi-Fi) technology to connect their computers to the internet. BT's Home 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.

How can you protect yourself and your PC?

The good news is that the vast majority of these threats can be significantly reduced by installing a good security software package and using your common sense.

Anti-virus and anti-spyware

It's essential for you to install anti-virus software on all your computers – and keep it up to date. This will find, block and delete computer viruses so that they can't do any damage to your computer.


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.

Spam and pop-up blockers

These stop unwanted emails and web browser 'pop-up' windows appearing on your computer. You can use a pop-up blocker in your browser such as the one included with the BT Yahoo! toolbar, and you can avoid most spam emails by switching on 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.

Secure browsing

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.

Strong passwords

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 many sites or accounts just in case someone finds it out.

Stay up to date

From scammers to viruses, the best way to stay safe online is to stay up-to-date and 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.

Stay aware

Make sure you use privacy settings on sites like Facebook and decide who you share personal information and pictures with. It's also worth bearing in mind that if you meet people online for the first time they may not be who they say they are.

Where can you get more info?

Get Safe Online is a joint initiative between the Government, law enforcement, leading businesses and the public sector – aiming to provide computer users with free, independent, user-friendly advice on how to use the internet confidently, safely and securely. They've got some great information and explanations on their web site so it's well worth a visit.

BT Parental Controls – Create a safe network in your home

Keep your family safe online with BT Parental Controls. With no software to download, it's quick and easy to set up. You can completely personalise this to your family's needs – BT Parental Controls protects every device connecting to your BT Home Hub – and will even protect you when you're out and about on any BT Wifi hotspots in the UK if you log in with your BT ID.

Here's what you get:

  • Block inappropriate websites
  • Personalise by adding sites to your blocked and allowed lists
  • Set Homework time filters
  • Protect every device in your home
  • Email alerts every time a change is made to your settings

Learn more about the features of BT Parental Controls

  1. Log in or sign up to My BT
  2. Register and download BT Parental Controls
Get BT Parental Controls

Help keep your children safe online

To help children enjoy the internet safely, we've produced a simple set of rules to follow: Stop, Think, Stay Safe. These tips can be shared with your children to help them recognise and reduce the risks they might face online.

Zip it

Stop – Don't give out any personal details

You wouldn't stand on the street handing out leaflets all about you. So don't give out personal information on the internet.

  • your full or real name
  • your address
  • your mobile or home phone number
  • your school's name or address
  • your friends' or family's personal details
  • your favourite places
  • your photo

When you're signing up for any online accounts – email, chat or on a web site – use a nickname.

Flag it

Think – Things aren't always what they seem

You've probably heard stories about people on the internet pretending to be someone else so that they can make friends with young people. Not everyone on the internet has bad intentions, but some do.

Question everything:

  • Is someone asking you questions about yourself?
  • If so, why do they need to know those things?
  • Do they get annoyed when you don't answer?
  • Why are they asking you to talk in private?

Remember, people who are interested in tricking you can be very smart. They know all the ways to get your trust. Be extra careful with anyone asking you lots of questions about yourself.

Block it

Stay safe – Spread the word

Tell your mum, dad and friends what you've seen and done on the internet. Not just any bad stuff, but the good things too. Your parents will feel a lot more relaxed if you tell them what you're up to. If you don't feel comfortable telling your mum or dad, tell an adult you trust – like your aunt, your teacher or your mate's mum.

Download our free guide to family protection

Would you like to know more?

Why not spend some time with your child browsing the guidance that has been produced by The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre with different age groups in mind:

5-7 years

8-10 years

11-16 years

More top tips

The internet is an amazing resource for your children – helping them interact, learn and have fun from the safety of your home – alongside the Internet Green X Code above, there are a few more steps you can take to help your children stay safe online.

See our top tips for staying safe online

Avoiding email scams

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.

Latest scams:

Here are some of the most common ways internet crooks will try to get you to part with your money, or put your personal data at risk.

The "phishing" email

Phishing is when scammers try to get your account details by sending what looks like an official email.

If you've received an email, but you're not sure it's from BT:

  1. Don't click on it
  2. Don't give out your BT account details (we'll never send an unsolicited email asking you for them)
  3. If you're using BT Yahoo! webmail, you can mark the email as spam. You can also forward the suspicious email to

Find out more about avoiding email phishing scams

The overpayment offer (Nigerian '419' scam)

In this scam, the fraudsters claim that they have a large bankers draft that, for some unlikely reason, they are unable to cash themselves so they need your help. If you are willing to transfer a much smaller sum to them, they will pay the draft into your bank, and you can keep the difference. Soon after you make the transfer, their funds mysteriously bounce, and you are left out of pocket.

The auction overpayment offer

This works much the same as the scam above, but starts when you try to sell a relatively valuable item such as a computer or car online. The winning bidder will offer to pay you more than it's worth if he can send you a bankers draft, and so the Nigerian payment scam begins.

The debt rescue offer

This scam is a simple one that often preys on the desperation of people in bad debt. It offers a quick, no questions asked loan, without any form of credit check required, so long as you are willing to pay an 'arrangement fee'. Of course, you pay the fee, but the loan cash never arrives.

The unclaimed lottery fund

We all dream of winning the lottery, and this email could just make you think all your dreams have come true. Of course, it's a scam, and the thieves attempt to get their hands on your money by claiming you need to pay a 'release fee' before the winnings can be released. Real lotteries will never ask you to pay fees, but if in doubt, contact the National Lottery Commission.

The competition you never entered

This is much the same as the lottery scam above, except you'll receive an email (or click a banner ad) telling you you have won the latest gadget or a fantastic holiday. Yet again, all you have to do is pay that pesky 'release fee' and the prize is yours. Or not, as you'll find when you're left drained of funds with nothing to show for it.

The disaster relief appeal

This type of scam tends to surface each time there is a disaster such as a flood or earthquake. The fraudsters pose as charities and ask email recipients to donate money which sadly never reaches the victims. If you want to donate to charity, it's always best to avoid clicking any links and visit the Charity Commission website and choose a charity listed there.

The gambling/stock market prediction

With this scam, you'll receive on the likely outcome of a sports event or the likely movement of a set of stocks and shares, and be told you have to bet or buy now to cash in. These scams work by instilling a sense of urgency – if you you don't put your money into this NOW, you'll miss out. In reality, though, the scammers stand to profit in some way from where your money ends up. Never trust an unsolicited online 'tip' – it's illegal, and you're likely to lose money.

The urgent medical costs

A particularly cruel form of online scam, this one works by befriending a person online (perhaps via a dating site, chat room or forum). Once the fraudster feels they have won the victim's trust, they will begin an elaborate tale of a seriously ill relative. Eventually, they will claim that a large sum of money is needed urgently to pay for a lifesaving operation or drug. Of course, the relative doesn't exist, and once the money is transferred, the victim never hears from the fraudster again.

The Trojan horse

This is an all too common method that fraudster use to get hold of personal data such as banking passwords and credit card details. Emails will look as though they are from friends ('Are these photos you?') or from a company you trust ('Please check the attached statement'). These files can look harmless, but once clicked, immediately install a type of program known as a Trojan horse when clicked. The Trojan can then record keyboard strokes and transmit the data back to the fraudsters. If in doubt, delete!

Top tips for staying safe online

How long should children be online each day?

There's no official advice on this but various experts have suggested that two hours a day of TV or computer use should be the maximum, especially for children under 11 years old. Not using the computer in the hour before sleeping is also recommended by many sleep experts. You can find out more at

Keep internet enabled devices in sight

One simple way to keep track of what children are doing online is to put your computer in a public part of your home, like the kitchen or living room. You'll be used to keeping tabs on your children from the corner of your eye – and there's no reason this can't work when they're online. Don't forget that the internet can also be accessed through mobiles and devices like Apple's iTouch, so be aware of the different web devices your children use.

Keep an eye on the clock

If you're worried your children are spending too much time online, you can try limiting how much time they're allowed to spend on the internet, or give them set times in the week when they can go online.

Set ground rules

Be clear with your children about what you expect them to do and not do online, so they know from the outset what the rules are. You can also ask them to show you the kinds of things they spend their time doing online.

Configure parental software

If you've already installed parental control software on all your computers at home, then make sure it's configured correctly. As children mature, their needs will change so it's well worth reviewing the settings at regular intervals. Parental control software can help you set safe boundaries for your children.


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