TAFE Queensland is urging locals to be more conscious of their online security practices in the lead up to Safer Internet Day this Tuesday, 11 February.

TAFE Queensland’s Mooloolaba campus will offer a Certificate IV in Cyber Security (22334VIC) for the first time this February in response to the growing demand for cyber security specialists, with students set to learn how to identify breaches and protect against online attacks.

But while the fight against cyber-crime requires specialist skills, TAFE Queensland information technology teacher Piero Dametto said there are range of simple measures the general public can take to protect themselves.

“The biggest mistakes people tend to make are not making their passwords complex enough and underestimating how easy it is for hackers to access identifying information from social media,” Piero said.

“People tend to overshare on social media and if they haven’t changed their default settings to private, this information can easily fall in the wrong hands, leaving them vulnerable to cyber-attack.”

“Combine this easily accessible trove of personal information with the fact that people often make their passwords something that’s easy for them to remember, like the name of a loved one or pet or a birthday, and it’s a recipe for disaster.”

Research published in 2016 as part of the Australian Government’s Cyber Security Strategy found that cyber crime is estimated to cost the Australian economy more than $1 billion a year.

According to Piero, it’s easy to strengthen your passwords while still making them memorable — people just need to get creative.

“The strongest passwords are composed of a string of random letters, numbers and symbols, but remembering them can be difficult,” Piero said.

“An effective way to create a secure password is by abbreviating a sentence you’ll remember into a sequence of letters, numbers and symbols representing the first letter of each word. For example, the sentence ‘Look at me, I’m a cyber security whizz’ could become ‘L@m1aCSw’.”

Other general rules people should follow to protect themselves include:

  • never use personal details for your passwords
  • never use the same password twice
  • ensure your password is between eight and 12 characters
  • change your passwords frequently
  • check your social media settings and make sure they're switched to private or ‘friends only’
  • only connect with people you know
  • avoid disclosing too much personal identification — for example, be wary of questionnaires 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 to solve security questions.

According to the Australian Government’s Job Outlook service, the number of people working as ICT security specialists has grown significantly over the last five years, with that number expected to continue  to rise. Further data published by the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business supports this predicted increase, with the number of employment opportunities available for database and systems administrators and ICT security specialists anticipated to grow Australia-wide by 18.3 per cent over the next five years.

Find out how you can kick start a career helping others to protect themselves from online attacks.

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