The recent news of Optus being hacked and thousands of people having their personal information such as credit cards, driver’s licences and medicare information exposed brings to light the seriousness of protecting our data online. While we as users can’t do much about a company being hacked (that responsibility falls on them) we can take steps to protect ourselves from fraud and harm online.
Step 1 – Create Strong Passwords
It’s important to think of something a cybercriminal couldn’t guess or access easily through your online information. So don’t use a birthday or a family member’s name. Instead, choose combinations of upper and lower case letters as well as numbers and symbols like & and @. You can also get help from Password management applications like 1Password to keep it all locked in a vault.
Step 2 – Avoid that Prince asking for Money
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If you receive a random email asking for your bank details in exchange for giant amounts of funds being transferred to your account. Send it to spam or delete it. If you feel the need you can even report it to a Cyber Security Firm. Some emails can look like they are from a legitimate company and one you might even deal with. But check for incorrect use of grammar or spelling and even make sure the email address is the correct one. If you feel remotely unsure about the communication, that could be your subconscious telling you something is up and you should contact the company and ask for advice. Don’t use the contact details on the email, instead google the company for the official website and contact using the information there.
Step 3 – Be Cautious on Social Media
Social media is fun, it’s a great way to check up on friends and family and do silly dances and learn about life hacks. But it can also be a minefield of scams. So be careful not to overshare your personal details. No one is going to do an “oh wow I just got a new credit card, look at how cool the numbers look” level of oversharing, but be mindful of what is in your images and who can see them. You can adjust your privacy settings so that more personal info like Birthdays, Hometown etc are hidden.
Step 4 – Free WiFi Connections are Often Not Secure
Most public/free wifi options don’t have the level of encryption required to keep your data safe. While its great to use for the basics, you might want to wait until you are on a trusted connection before you start entering in details that could come back to bite.
Step 5 – Click this link or open this attachment!
Don’t click that link or open that attachment, sometimes it can seem like it’s being sent from someone you know, but think for a few seconds longer before you open that link from your Mum that says “Look at my latest Video on YouCrowd” cause it’s pretty unlikely.
Step 6 – What is “HTTPS” anyway?
Step 7 – Hire Some Extra Muscle
We mentioned 1Password above which is a great way to protect your passwords, but also think of ways to protect the rest of your data and even your computer hardware from attack. Using a trusted anti-virus and anti-spyware program is a must and make sure you set up a secure Firewall. A lot of these programs have been around for years and have become even more efficient at protecting us from cybercrime.
It’s important to be vigilant when using online services, remember it’s a privilege to live in a day and age where everyday tasks are made so much easier by the growth in technology. Unfortunately, it also means we need to be even more aware of the things that can harm us.
The Australian Government has a great website portal for reporting Cyber Crime so if you feel like you are the victim of an online attack or scam go to the official website to report it as soon as possible: ReportCyber | Cyber.gov.au