Mar 26 2021

Over the past few years, there has been a large increase in illegal activity online, and you could be taking part without knowing it.

Police have issued a warning to universities about websites that allow you to illegally access academic papers, saying they’re a risk to your personal data, as well as breaking copyright law.

Whether it’s watching TV or downloading journal articles, using illegal sources could put you at risk in more ways than just breaking the law. If you’re using an email address to access these services, you’re at higher risk of phishing attempts, and criminals often upload malicious material to these site that can infect your computer.

You should always make sure that websites that you’re using are legitimate. If you’re completing academic work, only use sources you can access via our library services, and if you’re streaming, ensure you’re using reputable, legal sources.

There are risks associated with using malicious or illegal websites, which include:

  • Viruses and spyware (collectively known as malware).
  • Phishing, designed to obtain your personal and/or financial information and possibly steal your identity.
  • Fraud, from fake shopping, banking, charity, dating, social networking, gaming, gambling and other websites.
  • Copyright infringement – copying or downloading copyright protected software, videos, music, photos or documents.
  • Exposure to unexpected inappropriate content.

You should avoid these risks by sticking to legal sources of content, and practicing being safe online.

Follow these easy steps to stay safe online:

  • Use your instincts and common sense. If you think something is too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Don’t re-use passwords. This will minimise the risk or hackers being able to access any of your other accounts if you’ve signed up to something questionable, or had your credentials phished.
  • If there is no padlock in your browser window, or ‘https://’ at the beginning of the web address to signify that it is using a secure link, do not enter personal information on the site. 
  • Do not use websites that request more personal information than you would normally expect to give, such as your username, password or other security details.
  • Avoid ‘pharming’ by checking the address bar after you arrive at a website to make sure it matches the address you typed or clicked on.
  • Be wary of websites which promote schemes that involve the recruitment of others, receiving money for other people or advance payments.
  • If you are suspicious of a website, carry out a web search to see if you can find out whether or not it is fraudulent.
  • Be wary of websites that are advertised in unsolicited emails from strangers.

If you think your Royal Holloway account has been compromised, contact the IT Service Desk as soon as you can. They will be able to help you secure your account.