Keeping safe online

The threats – real and perceived

[First posted 10 September 2020; minor changes 21 June 2021]

Luckily, there’s plenty of advice and guidance available – often slanted particularly towards our demographic (ie oldies) …

Those two sites are particularly easy to follow and understand, but others are equally informative and targeted.

Your bank probably has guidance which it publishes online and which is accessible to everyone, not just their customers …

I’ll return to further information, guidance and references at the end of this post, but first we need to look at a few issues, discuss some terminology that’s widely used and try and tease out what’s really important, and what’s just an inconvenience and then it’s up to you to judge where you find yourself on the scale of …

Terrified -> Apprehensive -> Sensibly Aware -> Relaxed -> Unconcerned

First let’s distinguish the difference between online security and online privacy. These are two different issues which are however linked. Sometimes you have to relinquish some privacy to receive a service – unless you choose to pay for it (and I’ve long been an advocate of paying for services if they do a job that is necessary); exactly how much privacy are you prepared to relinquish?

Security on the other hand is an absolute – you should not be prepared to accept less than your very best efforts . We’ll deal with that in the third part of the post.

How do you relinquish your privacy, and how much of a loss of privacy is acceptable?

Some services could not be offered without income from adverts, or paid-for advertising – eg Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; and some eg Google and Amazon track and provide information to resellers if you don’t block them from doing so. As an example of how much value Google sees in getting knowledge of what you’re doing and where you’re doing it, they paid Apple $8bn recently to remain as the default search engine for any browser that’s running on an Apple device!

Incidentally, if you clicked on that link you might have been asked whether you wanted to accept cookies – what exactly are they, and what do they do. This article from Norton explains what they do quite well …

Essentially, they record what you do on a website so that when you return to it some of the settings are remembered and applied. Cookies do however also have a downside in that some can also act to track your activity once you’ve left the site. For that reason, you should disable in your browser the ability of third-parties to glean information from a cookie, and also to prevent them tracking your activity once you’ve left the site. You can at anytime, clear the cookies from your browser, and indeed on some internet browsers set them up to delete cookies when you leave (close the window) the site. The browser I use – Firefox – alerted me the first time I went to the site to the fact that Norton was using a Fingerprinting cookie itself …

Another thing you should consider is whether you want adverts to be shown, or not. You might get a request to enable adverts when you visit a site, the answer you supply will be held in a cookie in the browser – that’s how cookies work. Firefox, Brave and Microsoft Edge, by default, block most, if not all, adverts. These are often annoying and having a browser that blocks adverts, or if you use Chrome – using an ad-blocker like AdBlock Plus often makes for a more “pleasurable browsing experience” by limiting the intrusion you might feel upon your privacy.

Which brings us to browsers and search engines

Search engines are not created equal! Whilst Google is often thought to be the same as the internet and is often mistaken to be an internet browser itself, it is in fact just one of a range of possible search engines that you can use to look for information on the internet. It uses a platform called Chromium to display the results of its searches to you through a browser called Chrome. However, other browsers – Microsoft’s new Edge, Brave and Opera all use the same underlying Chromium technology – the difference being they don’t track what you’re doing “to present the content that most meets your needs” (Google’s philosophy) and in some cases (eg Brave) they can actually prevent tracking of your browsing history. For the reasons given above, I use either Brave or Firefox as my internet browser and I’m leaning more to the latter nowadays as it seems quicker and more secure as well.

So what safe and private search engine could you use as an alternative to Google. I use DuckDuckGo

… but others I could have used might have been Bing, Yahoo or another one you might choose from this article or the list of other articles at the end of it …

There are many specialist search engines (as explained in the above article) that can give you much better, and more targeted results than a broad-spectrum Google search.

Finally, no discussion of Privacy can ignore Social Media and Facebook in particular. These applications, if left to their own default settings, are effectively personal information mining engines. They grab what information they can from you, and sell it on to whoever is willing to pay for it; or are indeed the platform for data mining, vis the Cambridge Analytica affair.  Online retailers are not exempt from this and Amazon for instance has a wonderful record of your browsing history! Are you sure you know what it’s doing with that information? So look at this table taken from a recent Which? supplement – Staying Secure in a Digital World – and just check whether you need to change your settings if you use any Social Media apps …

So that’s Privacy dealt with.

Should you be frightened?

The take away message I want you to have is Frightened – no; cautious – yes!

Online banking is very secure – a recent survey in Which? produced the following scores …

… plus you are protected and most of the banks are increasingly opting to adopt an online and mobile guarantee to refund you where you’ve been the innocent victim of a fraud. Here for instance is Barclay’s “Online and Mobile Banking Guarantee.”

They really don’t want to shell out money, so they are trying to educate us to be wise to scams. So let’s take a scam test

Banks are also often supplying software free (or at reduced cost) for you to install to protect your machine, to protect you from fraud – and of course themselves from having to pay out! I was recently offered a piece of software called Malwarebytes by the NatWest and although I have an Apple Mac computer which are well known to be relatively secure from Viruses, Spyware, Trojans and other malware, I installed it. I was pleased to note that I didn’t have any malware on the machine.

Surprisingly you might think … it’s safer to use the mobile app on your phone, or tablet to do online banking and retail purchases than a web browser. This is because the app on the mobile device has to be verified by Google for Android (Google Play Store) or Apple for iOS/iPadOS (Apple Store). Whereas a browser could be infected, or compromised with malware. [That’s something I’ve learnt whilst preparing this post!!!]

When you’re out and about and NEED to do an online transaction from your mobile – use cellular rather than WiFi. The latter can be really open to “sniffers”. [I must admit I try to avoid doing online transactions when away from a domestic network.]

Whilst we’re at it, you might like to think about doing a Detox on your phone, and even consider installing Firefox as the browser of choice rather than Chrome (Android) or Safari (Apple) on your mobile device …

So we come to phishing and pharming, vishing and smishing – I kid you not! We’ll leave aside spear phishing because we’re not important enough for that – it’s used to target “corporations” and individuals within them! [Please excuse me not going into details on any of these. You can follow the links for further information.]

However the most scary scam I’ve been made aware of is one that befell a member of my family when they were distracted sufficiently to become the victim of SIM swapping.

I discussed this with the Cardiff U3A Computer Group last June and you can  read the updated post here.

What should you do to protect yourself?

Some of these pieces of advice are really quite straightforward, but some require some intervention by yourselves.

  • Keep your operating software up to date. This is particularly true if you’re a Windows user, and even more true if you are still running an older version of Windows than Windows 10. If you’re using Windows XP, Windows Vista or even Windows 7 you should seriously consider disconnecting your machine from the internet because even if you’ve got anti-malware software running this is probably not protecting you against the latest threats.
  • Install anti-malware, or anti-virus software, particularly if you’re a Windows user. Don’t pay more than you need to. Windows Defender from Microsoft is Free and for our demographic relatively undemanding and unsophisticated users, more than sufficient. Keep it up-to-date as well! [As I said previously, your bank might be offering free software as well.]
  • Keep the software you use regularly up to date as well. Consider removing any software from your machine that you don’t use – this is because software vulnerabilities are discovered sometimes quite a while after the software was first released. It will also save you disc space!
  • Be cautious over installing extensions into your browser. These are often extremely useful and valuable tools, ie password managers, Dropbox, note taking, Google Back up and Sync, but if you don’t get them from the official sources then you might be importing vulnerabilities, eg spyware and trojans to your system.
  • Very seriously consider logging-out from social media and other retail sites when you’ve finished using them, especially Facebook, you just don’t know what tracking and logging of what you do, even where you are, if you leave yourself logged in on a mobile device.
  • Free software is both a boon and a curse. Only download open source software from a reputable site such as Softpedia, and never try and get proprietary software for free. Read this article about Free download sites if you want to know more.
  • Remember the golden rule 1 – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is, so steer clear!
  • Remember the golden rule 2 – don’t speak to strangers (an oldie but goldie that one); in other words if you don’t know where an email has come from – ignore it; if the website address looks a little strange – do an internet search on the company or organisation to check if the address you’re looking at is a spoof of the proper one.
  • Have more than one email address. Use one as your personal address, then use other ones that you can “throw away”when you need to register to a website, but you’re unlikely ever to go back to it again. Or have an email address (UserID) specifically for online purchases. Splitting things like this reduces the risk of you being the victim of fraud.
  • Seriously consider using an email service that is NOT connected to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). If you decide to change your ISP, and you should review them periodically, then you will have real problems if your email address is linked to their service!
  • You’ve got Spam filters running? Of course you have – but you better check! Probably your ISP, or email provider (eg Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft Outlook or Hotmail) is filtering out what it thinks is spam, but occasionally some gets through. If that’s the case then you can always look at the real sender of your message. Take a look at the examples below …

You can also apply filters to divert incoming email into different folders in your email system. That reduces the amount of Junk that you need to review. [I’ve also advocated using the “native” email application for your device rather than rely on the web-based service the email provider has. Thus on a Windows device – use Windows Mail (or Outlook); on a Mac use Mail. You can then easily synchronise your email between devices from multiple email accounts. Tidy!]

So we come to Passwords …

… this is the point at which you need to consider intervention and changing your behaviour! You might also need to do a fair bit of work, but it’s worth it if you want to have a secure internet experience.

Let’s just see what using an insecure Password can lay yourself open to. Type in the word Password, or ABC123 from the link above – frightening eh!?

The most common password I use – and I know I shouldn’t reuse the same password, but I am human – has not been discovered on any pwned site. Phew!

What about the combination of your email address with your password – has that been “pwned” (ie stolen through a data breach)? Try typing your email address into the link above.

Oh no! I’ve been pwned … but it was a long time ago and I’ve changed my password many times since then!
Ah! That’s better – my “throwaway” email and passwords are “safe”!

And if you want to see a list of which websites have been breached, it’s alarmingly long!

So … use a unique password for everywhere you sign on. There’s lots of tricks to achieve this; some of which I wrote about in a post quite a long time ago …

… but the real change of behaviour is to use a Password Manager – again I wrote about this a little while ago and linked it to using Two Factor Authentication, which is also covered in the same post …

Password managers

I use LastPass, but other common ones are Dashlane and 1Password. Please make up your own minds after reading some Reviews and seriously consider using one.

Slides from talk given to Bridgend U3A

Keeping safe online

Slides from talk given to Cardiff U3A

Staying safe online


These may not be available in your Public Library, hopefully that isn’t the case.

… but these are available … Which? webpages – Scams & older people

I seriously do recommend signing up for the Which? Scam Alert Service – sign up for an email alert – and I seriously recommend you NOT broadcasting other people’s warnings to you about scams; they could be old, they could be inaccurate, they could be scams in themselves.

Look on the Age UK webpages – Staying safe in your digital world and specifically How to stay safe online

Your bank will undoubtedly have Internet Security webpages. Mine has a Security Centre web presence and particularly they provide a number of Fraud Guides

I could give a million references to changing your privacy settings on Social Media, but here are a couple relating to Facebook, perhaps the most challenging service of the lot.

First – what Facebook unchallenged will want to get from you. You are able to disable (prevent) all or some of these … Sign up for Facebook – this is not sign-up site, it’s just one to educate you on the privacy you might give up without realising before you sign up (but of course you can run the checklist at any time); then How to change settings on Facebook and finally Securing Facebook: Keep your data safe with these privacy settings.

My simplified (dummy’s) guide to getting images from Lightroom (Lr) into Lightroom Classic (LrC)

[Originally posted 20th December 2020;
Revised 12th April 2021

I’ve lost count of the number of posts on the subject of Workflow and Lightroom, Mobile and Classic (see links at the bottom) … and I’m still not using Lightroom (as opposed to Lightroom Classic – the desktop version)! That may, or may not, be a failing in me; it may be a failing in my understanding of whether I can actually find a place for Lightroom (the mobile cloud version) in my workflow. However, I’m determined to find out whether I’m missing out on something that might be useful, especially in the context of new Apple hardware. I’m talking now not just about the iPad Pro, but also the possibilities of benefiting from the M1 Chip in the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, as well as whether my iPhone 12 mini can be part of the workflow.

It occurred to me that with my MacBook Pro (mid-2012) beginning to show it’s age (trackpad failing), and with my experiments with my iPad Mini and iPhone 6s with the Lightroom app not exactly being a resounding success, that perhaps, just perhaps, technology had moved on and I would have to move on with it! When you add to this, that a native Lightroom (Lr) for the M1 Chip (to be followed later admittedly by Lightroom Classic) was to be released then I began to wonder whether I really needed Lightroom Classic (LrC) on a laptop, especially when benchmarks seemed to be showing that you didn’t need so much memory with the M1 Chip to do anything – other than for video editing. So to be “ahead of the curve” perhaps I needed to introduce Lr into my Workflow not as a replacement to LrC but as a stepping stone. So here goes … I will describe my proposed Workflow [revised 12th April 2021] as a number of Use Cases.

Importing images from my camera to Lightroom (Lr).

I could link the Sony A7rIII to Lightroom on iOS/IPadOS using wireless, or buy a cable to join the two, but to be honest it’s fiddly and as I have a Lightning to SD-Card dongle, it’s easier to just eject the card from the camera and insert it in the slot of the dongle.

I purchased the iPhone 12 mini with 256Gb RAM to allow the possibility of adding images from the camera, but also more importantly to enable the use of the Lightroom camera on the phone. We’ll deal with that Use Case later.

I need to make sure a few things are setup on my iPad – my chosen device to import photos into Lightroom (Lr).

  1. I’ve created an album which I’ve called Sony to Classic Sync – this is the album I’m going to later synchronise with Lightroom Classic (LrC). I don’t enable Auto Add from Camera Roll – I don’t want anything seeping into the sync process that is outside manual control. I might decide to setup Albums for a special shoot/event/trip as an alternative to this album if that seems more appropriate, but I will use this album as the default one for syncing to the cloud and on into LrC.
  2. I check the Cloud icon and make sure that Syncing has been Paused – again I don’t want syncing to take place until I’m ready! Having done both of these and having inserted the dongle into the iPad …
  3. I go to my chosen Album (see 1 above) and Select – Add Photos, and Choose – From Files (this is the source Location for the images to be imported). I will then Browse to the Named SD-Card (it may appear in the list of possible Locations as “NO NAME”).
  4. Click then down through the folders (eg DCIM > 100MSDCF) to get to the images and click on Select. Either click on Select All, or select individually the images you want to Import. Click on Done to start the import process. The images should appear in the Album you’ve chosen.

At this time the images have only been imported into Lightroom (Lr) on the iPad – if they are RAW images, that is what will have been imported. You can Select, Edit and Delete, add some Metadata such as Title, Caption and Keywords and Rate your images – you can’t apply Colour Labels. At this moment, the images will not have been synced to your Adobe Cloud account – that comes later!

Taking photos with my iPhone and syncing them to Lr

There are two Use Cases here. One where you are using your iPhone to just quickly take “snaps”; the other where you intend to do some post-production in Lightroom Mobile on the iPad, or after syncing to Lightroom Classic.In the first case you use the iPhone’s Camera app (which will if you’ve set things up in the right way upload the images to Apple’s iCloud, and /or Google Photos); in the second case you will use the Lr Camera rather than the iOS Camera to take the photos. Let’s deal with both cases …

Using the iOS Camera App and Camera Roll

After you’ve taken the photo it will appear in Photos your Camera Roll.

These are the settings I use to save the image to my iCloud account and to be able to see them on my other Apple devices as well …

If you want to have them uploaded to Google Photos as well, you need to open the Google Photos app, click on your icon in the top right-hand corner of the screen, and then firstly select Photos settings …

… and then enable Backup and sync from the Backup and sync screen as well as making a decision of the size of image you want uploaded, as well as whether you want to use mobile data to do the upload (I choose not to, just doing uploads when connected to WiFi).

You will now have the images accessible to you should you wish to Add photos from Camera Roll in the Lightroom Mobile app.

I have chosen to create an Album (a Collection in Lightroom Classic) which will Auto Import from Camera Roll when Sync is switched on …

… but I’ve also chosen to only Import Photos, not Screenshots or Videos – I don’t want, or need, them in Lightroom Classic …

… you should make your own decision about the RAW Default Settings.

So, if I take a photo with the iPhone Camera app it will automatically appear in the Lightroom Mobile Album – “Camera Roll to Classic Sync”.

You will notice (hopefully), that I’ve Paused Sync, so that anything added from the Camera Roll will not be Synced to Lightroom Classic.

It might be a good idea to NOT “Use Cellular Data” and to Enable “Only Download Smart Previews” – the latter is important because Smart Previews DON’T count against your Storage Quota on Adobe Cloud.

What I tend to do at this stage, or at least before I select “Resume Syncing”, is to go into the “Camera Roll to Classic Sync” album and delete the images I DON’T WANT to Sync to Lightroom Classic.

Using the Lightroom Mobile app (on iPhone or iPad)

The Lightroom camera app is much more sophisticated than the basic iPhone Camera app, so using it as a camera when you intend to include the image in your Lightroom Classic Catalog with, or without, post-processing is a Use Case you should seriously consider.

If you do this then the shots you take will appear under the Library > Lr Camera Photos menu in the Lightroom app …

… from there it’s relatively easy to …

  1. Go to the ellipsis icon “…” click on “Select“;
  2. Select the images you want to sync, and then
  3. Click on “Add To” which appears at the bottom of the screen when you start selecting images, and then
  4. Choose the Album you want to synchronise – usually in my case the one entitled “Lightroom Camera to Classic”.

You’re now ready to Sync

It’s relatively straightforward now to go to the Cloud icon and select Resume Syncing. You will see the progress of the syncing which for a lot of large RAW images can take quite a bit of time.

When the Synced and Backed Up checkbox has a tick in it – the import has finished, I will then click on Pause Syncing so that I don’t get inadvertent syncing taking place.

[NB I don’t want, or need, Adobe Cloud to provide a Backup for my images – if I’m importing from my cameraI I won’t delete anything from the SD-Cards until I’m confident I have the images I want imported into Lightroom Classic (LrC) – which has it’s own Backup arrangements.

If I’m syncing from the Camera Roll on the iPhone there will be copies in the Photos and Google Photos apps – “in the cloud”. ]

At this point you could check the synchronisation has gone to plan by starting-up Lightroom (Lr) (NOT Lightroom Classic) on your desktop/laptop. This will grab the images that are in Adobe Cloud and present them in a similar fashion to the iOS/iPadOS interface …

[NB Lightroom (Lr) can only sync with one Lightroom Classic (LrC) catalog, so you need to remember this when selecting your Catalog, or use that fact to your advantage if you don’t want to sync with Lightroom (Lr). You could do that by using different catalogs for synced and non-synced images.]

Preparing to Sync Lightroom (Lr) with Lightroom Classic (LrC)

In the same way that I want to do the upload to Adobe Cloud manually, and not have automatic syncing going on …

  1. I need to make sure that the “normal” setting for the Cloud icon in Lightroom Classic (LrC) is “Sync Paused” – unfortunately the Default setting is to have Sync Active.
  2. I need to provide Lightroom Classic (LrC) with information on what I want it to do with the images it’s going to import from Creative Cloud. You do this from the Lightroom Classic > Preferences … > Lightroom Sync page. You can see from the image below I’ve decided to Upload Images (using Lightroom Sync) to a folder on my local Google Drive, and to put them into Sub-folders by year and date …

[NB Since writing this, I have changed the Specified Location to be the actual folder that I want to store the images in; hence removing the need to move the images mentioned below.]

Syncing and what happens next

Once I’m confident that I’ve got Lightroom Classic (LrC) set up and ready to receive images from Creative Cloud, I can go to the Cloud icon and click on “Resume syncing“.

The album(s) I’ve created in Creative Cloud – and this can be either those on an iOS/iPadOS device OR Lightroom (Lr) on the desktop/laptop – will now be synced to Lightroom Classic (LrC).

The Albums from Lightroom (Lr) will appear in Lightroom Classic (LrC) as Collections, and the images will appear in the folder(s) that I determined in the previous step.

I can identify the Synced Collections (Albums from Lightroom (Lr)) by clicking on the magnifying glass under the Library > Collections menu …

I can see the images have been uploaded by looking at the Folders menu …

What I need to do now is Move the Images from the folder I stipulated on the Preferences page to their permanent home in my Images dataset. This I do and can only do within Lightroom Classic – you must never do this outside Lightroom Classic (LrC) because if you do, the LrC Catalog will lose the information of where the image resides in your file structure. For example …

[NB As mentioned above, I now upload the images to the folder I want them to be in, thus meaning I don’t have to move them.]

Now that I’ve got the images where I want them in Lightroom Classic (LrC), I need to stop the Collection (Album) syncing back to Lightroom (Lr) should I do any changes to the image – which I undoubtedly would. I thus click on the two-way arrow next to the Synced Collection …

… read the warning message, and click on “Stop Syncing“. You will then notice that the two-way arrow has become a check box …

… all that remains is to delete the images from Adobe Cloud, this can be done either from the desktop/laptop application, or from the iOS/iPadOS apps. It would probably be a good idea to move these collections that had been synced to a logical place in your Collections hierarchy before the next step if you want to keep them.

Deleting the images from Adobe Cloud will release some of your valuable storage space on your mobile device but will not delete them from Lightroom Classic (LrC), only from the Synced Collections. [See article referenced below.]

You can choose to Remove the Photos from a Synced Collection, but leave them in All Synced Photographs. This will enable you to move them to a different Local Collection, should you wish – if you haven’t already moved them as I suggested a couple of paras before…

In all cases however the images won’t have been removed from their Folders in your Images dataset, only from Collections …

The folders are unchanged after images have been removed from Synced Collections.

… and that’s about it, until I think of something else 🙂

For more information on Syncing to Adobe Cloud I suggest you look at this article and for further information on how to Remove photos from Adobe Cloud sync, I suggest looking at this article.

Other links

Lr Mobile – moving on! (March 2020)

Lightroom on the move – biting the bullet (February 2020)

Lightroom Workflow (2019) (October 2019)

Travelling with my camera and without my MacBook Pro (May 2019)

Lightroom CC (iPhone) working with Lightroom Classic CC (September 2018)