How to stay safe online

person holding credit card

Alice Piper

Posted March 04, 2022


Cybercrime is a real threat to internet users with billions of dollars duped from Australians in recent years. Here’s what you can do to stay safer online.    

Many Australians will be able to relate to some form of scam. Whether it was a credit card that was scammed overseas, or identity documents that fell into the wrong hands; we've all heard an unfortunate story about someone who has been scammed and the toll it takes.
 
No longer longwinded emails about Nigerian Princes and foreign exchange schemes, cybercrime and online scams have not only become more prevalent since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, but evolved into something that's much harder to detect.

One cybercrime report is made approximately every eight minutes in Australia, according to government agency ReportCyber, with cybercrimes up 13 per cent in 2020/2021, compared to the previous financial year.

“Cybercrimes are so sophisticated these days that even the savviest of people are falling for them,” says RACV Cyber Security Change and Awareness Analyst, Kim Clarke.

“From phishing emails and texts to phone calls from people who claim to be in the same state, some scammers will even go as far as copying the branding, logos and websites of various companies to look more legitimate,” she adds.

8 cyber security tips to stay safe online
 

Learn how to create strong passwords and update them regularly

Using a random set of numbers or a loved one’s name is an outdated form of password security.

“A longer phrase is a secure form of password, as a single words and numbers are too easy for scammers to crack,” says Clarke. “And never use the same password across multiple accounts and websites, as this means if a scammer has one password, they have them all.” 
 
Common passwords that should never be used include 123456, 123456789, 12345, qwerty and password.

 Use a secure password manager  

Storing passwords to things such as bank accounts, subscription accounts, or streaming services in the notes section of a phone, or in a document saved on a computer, can leave them vulnerable to hacking.  

“Using a password manager is a secure way to store sensitive information that can be accessed by you and no one else,” says Clarke.

woman on laptop

Always use a secure password manager to store sensitive information. Image: Getty


Update all internet devices regularly

Updating devices such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops or computers regularly can help improve your cyber security. Updates to these devices might include new anti-virus software or patches to fix vulnerabilities in old software.

Also consider adding password protection to each device either through a code or fingerprint recognition. This will help prevent personal information being easily taken should the device go missing or be stolen.  

Backup important data  

Regularly backing up data on personal computers, mobile phones, tablets and laptops to a hard drive or secure cloud-based server, can help protect against data loss and make it more difficult for scammers.  

Doing this can also help protect your data against device theft and breakage.  

Avoid using public Wi-Fi

Open Wi-Fi networks are easy to connect to, which makes it simple for scammers to connect to other devices and steal sensitive information.  

“Avoid using public Wi-Fi altogether, but if it is absolutely necessary, never use it to access personal bank details or sensitive information,” says Clarke. “And always use a VPN to protect privacy.” 

man holding mobile phone

Avoid using public wifi, and if unavoidable, never use it to access bank details. Image: Getty


Monitor social media use

Social media scams through  targeted ads, direct messages and hacking of accounts have the potential to allow cyber criminals direct access to a person’s name, age, address, and lifestyle – not to mention a myriad of personal photos.  

These tips from the Australian Cyber Security Centre can help keep personal social media accounts safe. 

Use secure file sharing  

Always check colleagues and friends are using secure websites when file sharing with you. Don’t assume that because the person is a close contact, that transferred files won’t be corrupt.

Ensure online stores are secure when shopping

9.1 million Australian households shopped online in 2021, spending a whopping $50.46 billion – providing plenty of opportunity for scammers to access credit card and other banking details. 

Before buying from a new e-commerce website or an unknown brand, research the company to see if they are reputable, look for customer reviews, and check the security status of the checkout process by looking for an ‘s’ at the end of the ‘http’ in the URL.