Ten tips to stay safe online
As technology continues to infiltrate our lives, more and more people are falling victim to cyber attacks. Find out how you can stay safe with these practical tips from IT teacher and cyber security expert, Warren Toomey.
By Warren Toomey, IT Teacher
1. Check your bank accounts regularly
Keep a watchful eye on your account balances and credit card transactions. If you spot any unexplained activity, contact your financial institution immediately.
2. Do regular backups to external media
Many individuals and businesses have been hit with ransomware — a form of malicious software that encrypts your files and demands payment to unencrypt them. If you perform regular backups then you can recover your data and protect yourself from these attacks.
3. Don’t reuse passwords
Internet security is not failsafe. You should assume that at some point, the security on your favourite website will be breached and your username, contact details, and password will be exposed. If you’ve used this password on other websites the hackers will be able to access your information on those websites as well. Consider using a password manager which generates unique, hard to guess passwords for each different website.
4. Don’t give out your personal information
Hackers can use your personal information to steal your identity and open up credit cards and other accounts in your name, leaving you responsible for the resulting debt. Don’t give out your name, address, phone number, tax file number or date of birth unless it’s really necessary. And don’t post on social media when you’re going on holiday — you’re basically signposting that your house is empty and ready to be burgled.
5. Keep your computer software patched and up to date
Hackers try to exploit newly discovered vulnerabilities in your computer’s software to take over your computer or download sensitive data. If you keep your software patched and up to date this will help to protect you from potential attacks.
6. Install an anti-virus solution and keep it up to date
Your anti-virus software is an important defence against malware (malicious software) which is delivered to your computer via e-mail or through browsing unsecure websites. Always keep your anti-virus software up to date to reduce your risk of getting a nasty computer virus.
7. Remove unnecessary applications, add-ons and plug-ins
It’s always fun to try out new apps or plug-ins but it’s important to remember that each one has bugs and vulnerabilities. If you limit the amount of apps on your system you will reduce the potential vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.
8. Use two-factor authentication
If possible, use more than just one form of authentication to login to important services like online banking. Add a second factor to login such as your fingerprint, face recognition, time-based passcode, or a hardware authentication device. That way, the hacker has to obtain both factors before they can login as you, significantly reducing your risk of being hacked.
9. Assume every e-mail is a fake
These days it’s easier than ever to create a legitimate looking fake e-mail so it’s worth being a bit sceptical when checking your emails. If the e-mail contains a web link, don’t just click on it, hover over the link first to see if the URL matches what you you expect it should be. If you receive an e-mail from a friend or a business that sounds suspicious, e-mail or ring them first to confirm the contents of the e-mail before taking any action.
10. Watch out for spear phishing
Hackers are now targeting employees in businesses who have control over important information — for example human resources staff with access to employees personal data or people in finance who can authorise payments. If you receive e-mails or messages asking you to divulge sensitive information or make payments always ask for confirmation through the proper channels before you do anything.
Discover how you can protect organisations against malicious cyber activity with the Certificate IV in Cyber Security (22334VIC) from TAFE Queensland.