Cyber hacks: How to protect yourself from online crime

Updated July 04, 2018 09:48:09

If you’ve been caught up in an online scam you’d know what a headache they can cause.

And while businesses large and small are under threat, anyone with a presence online can be the victim of a cyber attack.

Online scams and cybercrime have the potential to impose irreversible financial, legal and reputational costs.

According to one of Australia’s leading experts on cyber security, cybercrime is one of the most significant existential threats we’ll face in our economy.

Alastair MacGibbon, national cyber security adviser and the head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, told ABC Canberra it was more important than ever that we knew how to keep ourselves safe online.

“If we get cyber security right as a community, we can get all the advantages of connected technologies,” he said.

“The millions of us online are the weakest link.

“It’s about our behaviours and practices online as private users.”

1. Change ‘pass-phrase’ often

If you think your one-word password with a number at the end makes the cut for online security, think again.

“We all need a strong and hard-to-guess password,” Mr MacGibbon said.

“Really we should call it a pass-phrase because it can be a series of words that you string together.”

And if you’re using the same password across multiple sites to keep it simple, you’re likely making it easy for online criminals.

“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. Update operating systems

With a multitude of programs installed across a range of devices used daily, it can seem as though there’s constantly program updates required.

According to Mr MacGibbon, those program updates can be critical.

“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 be one step ahead of hackers, Mr MacGibbon advises developing a system to back 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.”

But if you’ve got your precious assets and material saved elsewhere, you’ve done yourself a favour.

“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,” Mr MacGibbon said.

4. Identify dodgy and back away

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

The competition, called CyberTaipan, is designed to get students to go online and think like a hacker so they can better protect themselves from 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.”

Ms Price said pinpointing when malicious software had been deployed on personal computers would depend on observing changes in the computer’s behaviour.

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

What was important, Ms Price said, was to “have that care factor to think, is that malicious or not”.

5. Report it

And if you’ve been the victim of cyber crime or been sent something potentially problematic, reporting scams can help to limit broader harm.

Information collected by the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) is used to help inform the community.

ACORN advises that victims of scams contact their financial institutions immediately if banking details have been shared with a scammer.

And if you’re concerned about your safety online, Mr MacGibbon said the Office of the eSafety Commissioner could help.

Via the eSafety website people can also report cyber bullying, illegal content and image-based abuse.

Topics:computers-and-technology, hacking, viruses, consumer-protection, science-and-technology, information-technology, human-interest, safety-education, people, canberra-2600

First posted July 03, 2018 07:30:45


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