Wenlock, Mandeville and you *

There are just 11 days to go until the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games in London. With the games fast approaching, now’s a good time for us to issue a gentle reminder about security.

I’m not thinking here about the security of the games themselves. It’s possible, of course, that someone might try to disrupt the systems used to support the games – for example, defacing web sites, tampering with scoreboards, or planting malware on official games web sites. But the UK government has put in place a team to try to minimise the risk of direct attacks on London 2012 systems.

But I’d like to highlight two possible dangers that might affect visitors to the games.

First, there’s the risk of being tricked into visiting a fraudulent web site that, at first glance, seems to be a legitimate site, e.g. ‘www.london2o12.com’. It’s possible that scammers might try and cash-in on the last-minute scramble for tickets. This could be done to sell bogus tickets, or simply to trick people into entering personal information. And phishers don’t just use e-mail to drive people to such sites. These days, cybercriminals are just as likely to use instant messaging, or messages in social networks.

Second, there’s the risk associated with accessing unsecured wi-fi networks. In an ‘always-on’ world, wi-fi offers a way of staying connected; and you can find a wi-fi hot-spot nearly everywhere you go now. But if it’s an unknown, untrusted wi-fi network, it’s possible for someone to intercept the data you transmit. So if you’re using a laptop or tablet, make sure you have a secure connection by always using ‘https’; and use a unique, complex password for every online account (i.e. one that mixes letters, numbers and symbols and is more than eight characters). If you’re using a smartphone, don’t use an untrusted wi-fi network for any online transaction where you need to type in confidential data – this includes banking, shopping and social networking. And if you have to use public wi-fi (for example, for work), it’s best to use VPN functionality, whichever operating system you use – Windows, Mac OS, Android or iOS.

So if you’re looking to buy tickets for the games, or just planning to be in London this summer, be vigilant and stay safe.

* Wenlock and Mandeville are the official mascots of the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

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