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Google research reveals a third of Australians have been hacked or scammed

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One in three Australians have had a password hacked and one in four have been taken by a phishing scam according to new research from Google that shows almost 60 per cent of Australians are not trying to improve their online security.

Google Australia says 42 per cent of adults take deliberate steps to improve their online security while one in 10 rarely do so and a further 8 per cent don’t take any steps at all.

And it’s younger Australians (18-34) who are more likely than older Australians aged 50+ to say they have not taken deliberate steps to improve their online security.

The biggest shock from this research was the large number of Australians who have become victims online at 34 per cent of adults – that’s the equivalent of 6.6 million people who have had a password hacked or compromised.

One in four Australians (26 per cent ) – the equivalent of 5.2 million people – have been deceived with a phishing scam with the cyber criminals stealing personal or sensitive information.

Security and sharing of high risk passwords was also revealed as a problem after it was found that 14 per cent of Australians have shared a password with a family member or friend and a further 6 per cent have texted or emailed a password to someone.

Surprisingly, one in five (17 per cent) of those who use the same passwords for all their accounts have admitted to texting or emailing that password to someone.

Only 30 per cent of Australian adults said they have a different password for every online account.

More than one in 10 Australians (14 per cent ) – the equivalent of 2.8 million people – did know what two factor authentication was while a further 9 per cent say knew what it is but never use it.

Research has shown that two factor authentication can help prevent phishing and scam attempts.

Nearly half of Australia adults admit they don’t look for the secure website symbol when purchasing something online and nearly a third (31 per cent) either don’t know or can’t recognise what the secure symbol means.

Those who said they weren’t taking deliberate steps to stay safe online admit the primary reason was because they didn’t know what steps they could take or where to start according to 30 per cent of those surveyed.

“Recently, there’s been a huge focus on businesses falling victim to cyber attacks – but this data shows how frequently individuals have been caught in scams,” says Samantha Yorke, Google Australia’s senior manager of Government Affairs and Public Policy

“Hacking of passwords is an ever-present threat and phishing scams are becoming more sophisticated.

“While it’s concerning that many people feel they don’t know what to do to improve their online safety, there are simple steps you can take that make a huge difference – and with Australians spending more time online, protecting yourself is more important than ever.

“Password manager tools are one of the easiest ways to protect yourself, which the research shows one in four Australians are using at the moment.”

Here are Google’s top five tips for staying safe online:

  1. Create a strong, unique password for every account: This is one of the most critical steps that you can take to protect your privacy. And make use of a password manager tool.
  2. Turn on 2-Step Verification: This helps to keep out anyone who shouldn’t have access to your account by requiring you to use a secondary factor on top of your username and password to log in to your account.
  3. Make sure site connections are secure: If the url is secure the Chrome browser will display a grey fully locked icon in the url field.
  4. Always validate URLs and suspicious links: Double-check the URL by hovering over the link or long-pressing the text on mobile — to make sure that the website or app is legitimate; and make sure that the URL begins with ‘https’.
  5. Double check files before downloading: If you come across a suspicious attachment, use Chrome or Google Drive to open it. They automatically scan the file and warn you if we detect a virus.

Key Stats

Deliberate steps to improve online security

  • Six in ten (59 per cent) Australian adults are not always taking deliberate steps in order to improve their online security. Only 41 per cent are always taking deliberate steps to improve their online safety.
  • Younger Australians aged 18-34 (71 per cent) are more likely than older Australians aged 50+ (49 per cent) to say they do not always take deliberate steps all the time in order to improve their online security.

Barriers to taking deliberate action

  • Among those who are not currently taking deliberate steps to protect themselves online all the time, the main reason as to why is because they say they wouldn’t know what steps they could take or where to start (37 per cent).
  • Almost one in three (31 per cent) claim that they don’t share any personal or financial information online, while nearly one in five (18 per cent), the equivalent of 2.1 million Aussies, believe a password is enough to keep them safe online.
  • Women (43 per cent) are more likely than men (29 per cent) to suggest that they wouldn’t know what steps they could take or where to start in regard to protecting themselves online.

Passwords

  • Only three in ten (30 per cent) Australian adults say that they always use a different password for every account online. A further three in ten (30 per cent) say they use a couple of passwords across their account, but they do overlap, one in five (20 per cent) say they use similar passwords based on the same word / phrase for all their accounts, while 7 per cent, the equivalent of 1.35 million Aussies say they use the exact same password for all their accounts where possible. While, one in five (20 per cent), the equivalent of 4 million Aussies say they often forget the password they use online.
  • Alarmingly, younger Australians aged 18-34 (11 per cent) are twice as likely to use the exact same password for all their accounts where possible compared to those aged 50+ (5 per cent), as well as more likely to say they use a couple of passwords across their account, but they do overlap (18-34 35 per cent compared to 50+ 24 per cent). Younger Aussies are more likely to have shared a password with a friend or family member (18-34 years 19 per cent compared to 50+ years 10 per cent) and texted or emailed a password to someone (18-34 years 11 per cent compared to 50+ years 3 per cent).
  • Four in ten (39 per cent) have written their passwords down somewhere, including 33 per cent who say they have written it down somewhere safe and 9 per cent somewhere where they may not be safe.

Two-factor authentication usage 

  • More than one in ten (14 per cent) Australian adults, the equivalent of 2.8 million people, did not know what two-factor authentication was before taking this survey. A further one in ten (9 per cent) know what two-factor authentication is, but never use it. While more than two thirds (77 per cent) of Aussies are using two-factor authentication, frequency of usage is low with four in ten (40 per cent) using it only sometimes, just four in ten (25 per cent) regularly and one in ten (12 per cent) who use it all the time.
  • Research reveals that using two-factor authentication can help in preventing phishing/ scam attempts, as those who have never fallen victim to some sort of online phishing/ scam (79 per cent) are more likely than those who have fallen victim at least once (72 per cent) to also use two-factor authentication.