How to Stay Safe Online

Online scams can be massive headaches for virtually anyone that has an online presence. Whether it’s a business or even your personal account, online shams and cybercrime can potentially leave you with irreparable financial, legal and reputational damage.

According to one of the country’s foremost experts in the field of cyber security, cybercrime is a threat that everyone should face with great vigilance.

According to Alistair MacGibbon, a national cyber security adviser and the head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, everyone should be armed with the right information on how to best guard themselves against this imminent threat.

“If we get cyber security right as a community, we can get all the advantages of connected technologies,” MacGibbon was quoted as saying. “The millions of us online are the weakest link. It’s about our behaviours and practices online as private users.”

With all that being said, here are five of the best ways to stay safe on the Internet.

1. Change “pass-phrase” as often as possible

If you think the password you have now is unbreakable, you better think again.

“We all need a strong and hard-to-guess password,” MacGibbon said. “Really we should call it a pass-phrase because it can be a series of words that you string together.”

MacGibbon said that you’re inviting even more trouble if you are using the same password for different websites.

“It’s important to have a different [password] for each of the services that you use,” Mr MacGibbon said. If you use the same password across multiple sites and it’s compromised in one place, then it can also be used in others.”

2. Keep operating systems up to date

MacGibbon says program updates are of utmost significance.

“Software manufacturers and hardware manufacturers have made it easy for us,” he said. “We can just automate [updates] every time we login, which checks if we’re running the latest operating system on our computer. If not, let the system update itself.”

3. Back up data

If you want to remain a step ahead of malicious hackers, MacGibbon is recommending that you develop an efficient system for backing up data.

“One of the fastest growing types of crime is a thing called ransomware,” he said. Unhelpful criminals will send us one of those links that’s executable in an email. We open it up and this malicious code or malware goes onto the computer and locks up files.”

However, that tact won’t work if you have stored your precious files somewhere else.

“If I’ve backed it up then I just tell the criminals that I’m not going to pay the ransom to unlock it and get my files going again,” MacGibbon explained.

4. Be wary of shady stuff 

As part of an initiative sparked by the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network (AustCyber), school students have been urged to participate in a new cyber defence challenge.

The competition, dubbed CyberTaipan, is geared to get students to go online and adopt the mindset of a hacker so they can protect themselves better against cyber crime.

“Cyber security is going to be a component of every single job going forward,” said network chief executive Michelle Price.

“CyberTaipan is the Australian version of CyberPatriot, which has been running in the US now for 10 years. We need the kids coming through to be on the front foot and have the awareness,” added Price.

Price remarked that identifying when malicious software had been installed on personal computers would hinge on taking stock of the changes in the computer’s behaviour and performance.

“It might be running slower, it might take your mouse elsewhere on your screen when you weren’t expecting it,” Price said.

“It might also just flick screens, and sometimes our computers do these things anyway and that’s how hackers can get away with it.”

5. Report it right away

Making sure to report scams would go a long way to restricting the impact that it can possibly have.

Information gathered by the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) is utilised fully to help community be abreast of what’s what in the digital world.

ACORN recommends that victims of scams get in touch with their financial institutions right away if banking details have, in any way, been compromised.

And if you’re concerned about your safety online, MacGibbon said the Office of the eSafety Commissioner could be of possible assistance. Through the eSafety website people can also report cyber bullying, illegal content and image-based abuse.