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The importance of being cyber savvy

TAFE Queensland Faculty Director for Creative and Digital (East Coast region) Angela Lisle explains why cyber security is such an important industry, and shares her tips for staying safe online.

With reports of cybercrime steadily on the rise, it's more important than ever that computer users take steps to protect themselves online.

According to the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s 2020-21 Annual Cyber Threat Report, more than 67,500 cybercrimes were reported in the 2020-2021 financial year – a nearly 13 per cent increase on the previous year.

TAFE Queensland Faculty Director for Creative and Digital (East Coast region) Angela Lisle said more skilled cyber security workers are needed to protect businesses in an increasingly digitised economy.

“The pandemic has forced many businesses to get innovative and increase their online presence, and while this is positive in terms of enabling staff to work from any location and expanding their accessibility for customers, cyber criminals will exploit and capitalise on any weaknesses they can find,” Ms Lisle said.

“Cyber security specialists have become a crucial investment for larger businesses and organisations in recent years, and they are only going to become more vital as technology develops and cyber criminals get more creative in their approaches.”

But with a growing number of individuals and small businesses also falling victim to scams on social media, Ms Lisle said it was also important for the general public to educate themselves on how to identify threats and protect themselves online.

“Media has recently reported several instances of small Australian businesses having their social media pages hacked and either held to ransom, used to post scams that take advantage of their customers’ trust, or having money siphoned out of the accounts they’d set up to pay for advertising – all outcomes that are incredibly detrimental to these businesses and the individuals behind them,” Ms Lisle said.

“Social media can be a wonderful way to keep in contact with our loved ones and share what we're up to, but as more of our lives are carried out online, we need to be conscious of the information we put out to the world and who can access it."

“Cyber criminals have become far more sophisticated in their tactics, and the trove of information available on social media is making it easier than ever for hackers and scammers to guess passwords, commandeer accounts, and gain the trust of unsuspecting victims," she said.

“It’s not just phishing emails containing dodgy links that people need to be looking for anymore – social media lends itself to methods like identity theft and catfishing that can be just as, if not more, damaging.”

Ms Lisle said internet users should consider the following tips when venturing online:

  • Never click on links if you're uncertain about where they lead.
  • If you're suspicious, google the organisation and check that the name, logos, website, email addresses and phone numbers match the email or message you’ve received.
  • If you're asked to provide personal information or transfer finances, google the organisation’s official website and use the details listed to contact them directly and verify the legitimacy of the request, or if it came from a friend, call them to check it was really them.
  • Never use personal details for your passwords.
  • Never use the same password twice.
  • Ensure your password is between eight and 12 characters, with a good mix of random-appearing uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Change your passwords frequently.
  • Check your social media settings and make sure they're set to private.
  • Only connect with people you know.
  • Avoid disclosing too much personal identification. For example, be wary of online quizzes that challenge you to post personal answers as your status, as they often coax people to share detailed information about themselves that could be used as passwords or to solve security questions.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment has projected that demand for skilled ICT security specialists in Australia will increase by nearly 20 per cent between 2020 and 2025, providing plenty of opportunities for tech-savvy jobseekers to pursue a career protecting businesses and individuals from cybercrime. And with the Certificate IV in Cyber Security (22334VIC) currently subsidised for eligible Queenslanders under JobTrainer funding, there’s never been a better time to set yourself on the path to a successful career in information and communication technology (ICT).