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Online safety tips for Cyber Security Awareness Week

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It’s National Cyber Security Awareness Week and a good time to ensure we are taking all of the necessary precautions to protect ourselves online.

The government initiative aims to highlight the steps we should take to keep personal and financial information secure.

With the internet an everyday part of our lives for communication, shopping, banking and education – safety has never been more important.

The Australian Government’s Stay Smart Online site outlines the events we can get involved in and also outlines the top tips to ensure better online security.

Online secure payment provider PayPal conducted a survey recently and it revealed 75 per cent of Australians are concerned about sharing information about themselves online.

The PayPal study also showed 50 per cent of respondents say they don’t know how many websites already hold their personal information.

Those who did know say their details are being held across five or more sites.

There are the obvious places like financial institutions and social networks but may forget others like online newsletters, shopping sites, recruitment services and real estate websites.

Last year more than $63 million of losses were reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) as a result of cyber crime.

PayPal has called for Australians to keep track of their “digital footprint” and to monitor the trail of personal and financial information left online.

One alarming fact revealed in the PayPal survey was the fact that almost 60 per cent of online customers admit to using the same password across several accounts.

This means if a cyber criminal compromises one password it may give them total access across a number of sites used by a single user and result in financial loss or identity theft.

“Many Australian consumers are unaware of the size and impact of the digital footprint they leave when interacting online,” said Frerk-Malte Feller, managing director, PayPal Australia.

“Whilst 75 per cent of Australians surveyed are concerned about the amount of information they share online, they continue to share their details across multiple accounts, often using the same password.”

Internet security expert Lloyd Borrett from online security company AVG (AU/NZ) says cyber security and education has become a critical issues.

“Cyber crime is increasingly sophisticated and organised, but complex and poorly understood. It’s under-reported because victims are often embarrassed and confused,” Borrett said.

Borrett took a look at the Stay Smart Online top tips and offers this advice:

Install Internet security software to protect against identity theft, social networks, spyware, viruses and other malicious software. It can only be fully effective if it’s always on, up to date, scans all of your files regularly and you renew your subscription before it expires.

Select automatic updates for your complete environment including its operating system, security software, utilities and other applications.

Think carefully before you click on links and attachments particularly in emails and on social networking sites. Don’t expose yourself to viruses, malicious software or scam web sites designed to steal your personal information. To check if a web site is safe, go to www.avgthreatlabs.com and enter the web site’s URL for its safety rating.

Regularly adjust your privacy settings on social networking sites. You’re not the customer of the social networking web sites, you’re the contributor of often sensitive information. So make sure you properly manage what is shared and with whom it’s shared.

Report or talk to someone about anything online that makes you uncomfortable. You can install the Government’s Cybersafety Help Button onto your desktop or task bar and have help just a click away. The Cybersafety Help Button is a free application and you can download it from dbcde.gov.au/helpbutton.

Stop and think before you share any photos, personal or financial information. If you are asked to provide such sensitive information, the request is probably from a thief, or an idiot! So play it safe: simply don’t provide the information.

Use a strong password and change it at least twice a year. Invent illogical word, number and symbol combinations to create the strongest passwords and change them regularly. Always change from default passwords, such as ‘password’ or ‘admin’ and never tick the ‘remember this password’ box.

Know what your children and/or staff are doing online. Make sure they know how to stay safe and encourage them to report anything suspicious.