The basic online security precautions most of us aren’t taking

By now most people are aware that it’s important to protect themselves online yet statistics show that Australians are still losing millions to online scammers. The latest ACCC Targeting scams report showed that Australians lost AU$340 million to scammers in 2017, with $49.9 million attributed to scams via email, social media, apps and the internet.* This highlights the need for continued vigilance with regard to online security, especially as cyberthreats continue to evolve and increase.

Staying safe online doesn’t have to be onerous and, with the right security measures in place, people should be able to use online services without fear.

From 8-12 October, the Australian government is running the annual Stay Smart Online week to remind people to keep themselves safe online. Awareness is one of the most important elements of cybersecurity, since people need to act to keep themselves safe; they can’t depend on technology alone to protect them from cybercriminals.

Steve Manley, regional vice president, ANZ, Palo Alto Networks, said, “Most of the things people can do to protect themselves online are fairly easy to implement, even for inexperienced users. It’s important to make sure these basics are covered.”

Palo Alto offer five basic security measures users should take to protect themselves online:

  1. Use unique passwords and multi-factor authentication to make it harder for attackers to access multiple accounts.
  2. Update apps to close security gaps. App-makers are constantly refining and improving their apps to make them perform better and be more secure, and these updates are free so there’s no reason users shouldn’t keep them updated to the latest version.
  3. Check privacy settings to ensure data isn’t being shared with third parties.
  4. Be aware of the risk of phishing attacks as well as the form these attacks could take. Phishing attacks rely on social engineering techniques to trick users into divulging information or making unauthorised payments or purchases.
  5. Don’t post on social media when executives are travelling. This information can be used to mount a successful phishing attack.

“Today’s hackers are far more likely target human victims rather than rely on technology targets,” Manley said. “Tricking people provides a lucrative shortcut for smart cybercriminals who invest a little bit of time upfront to pick their targets and develop a convincing story. No amount of anti-virus or anti-malware can protect an organisation from these types of attacks. It’s therefore essential to let employees know what to look out for and, importantly, what to do when these attacks occur.

“Cybercriminals use social media and hacked emails to monitor activity and gain enough information to create a plausible scenario in which the victim is fooled into providing confidential information such as passwords, or banking details,” Manly added. “Smart scams can also include legitimate-looking invoices or requests for lower-ranked employees to purchase gift cards and provide the details to the cybercriminals so they can convert them to cash.

“It’s also important to let employees know what kind of information is valuable to attackers, such as who is working where and with whom. Sharing this information publicly is tantamount to sharing on Facebook that the family is going on holidays and the house will be empty.

“Stay Smart Online Week in Australia is the perfect time to reinforce these messages and remind people how to keep themselves and the companies they work for safe online. Then, it’s essential to continue to remind people of the risks and their responsibilities throughout the year so that they are constantly vigilant. This will help reduce the risk that they’ll put the organisation or themselves at risk,” Manly concluded.

* https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/news/australians-lost-340-million-to-scammers-in-2017

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