Whether you were raised on technology, or just hyper diligent, you probably think you’re pretty cyber savvy. Think again.

Did you know that Australians lost more than $90 million to scams last year? In fact, most of us – whether we’ve realised it or not – have had our cyber safety threatened.

Your personal information can be destroyed or used without consent; or you can lose your savings, identity, livelihood or worse.

It might seem helpless, but the good news is, you can beat the scammers at their own game! Here are five quick, easy ways to protect yourself.

Apps & tips to protect you

Use your smarts, and technology, to be cyber-secure – at home, at work, at uni or out in the world.

1. Check if you’ve already been involved in a data breach

Visit haveibeenpwned.com and change those passwords for any accounts that it suggests may have been compromised.

2. Check the strength of your passwords

Test the strength of your passwords at howsecureismypassword.net (use something similar to your original password to test its strength).

When choosing a password, remember: the longer it is, the stronger it is. A strong password is at least 12 characters long and hard to guess.

Using a sentence is a great way to create a long password that you’ll never forget.

3. Avoid these passwords

The following passwords are considered the most common and easiest to crack – so if you’ve got any of these or similar variations, you should seriously considering changing them – quickly!

  • 123456 (or any chronologically-ordered numbers)
  • 987654321
  • 123123
  • QWERTY
  • 111111
  • password

So who’s most guilty of using ineffective passwords?

Sorry millennials, but you’re not doing great in the password stakes. Just 33% of millennials use secure passwords for all of their accounts, compared to 53% of baby boomers. Gen X-ers are (predictably) somewhere in the middle.

Use the technology available to protect yourself from cyber attacks.

Avoid getting scammed

4. Trust no one (on emails)

This may sound a bit extreme – but always be on the lookout for deceitful emails and compromised web pages (spam and phishing). Interacting with these puts your information at risk and can download viruses. Remember:

  • don't open email from unknown email addresses
  • trash attachments in unexpected emails
  • avoid risky clicks – instead type the address into your browser.

5. Secure your device

If your mobile device is unsecured, lost or stolen, it could be used to access your info, your money or steal your identity and irreplaceable data like photos or messages. Secure your devices by:

  • installing anti-virus software
  • setting a password, gesture or fingerprint that must be entered to unlock
  • setting the device to require a password before applications are installed
  • leaving Bluetooth hidden when not in use and disabling automatic connection to networks
  • enabling remote locking and/or wiping functions, if your device supports them.

Keep your devices secure, particularly when you're out and about.

What else can you do?

Did you know we are in the midst of a global skills shortage in cyber security? If you’re interested in IT or already working in the industry, consider further studies and become a cyber crime-fighter.

Find out more

The Master of Applied Information Technology has a hands-on approach, and will set you up for senior roles in IT, with focus on cyber security, cloud computing, advanced programming, mobile applications, software engineering and much more.

Check out more IT Networks and Security courses at VU.

 

Writer: Jessica Jury

Zahra Rezai is turning the tables on the hackers! Her IT pathway led her from TAFE to a degree and now onto the Master of Applied IT.