Six Steps to Staying Safer Online

Unknown emails, dodgy links, strange attachments, odd messages – cybercrime has permeated every level of life

Cybercrime is not the exclusive worry of the business. A report released by Javelin in 2018 found that identity fraud was on the rise, increasing by 8% in the US alone. This fraud stole more than $US 16.8 billion from consumers and affected more than 16 million people. This is not even counting the amount of damage done from phishing, ransomware attacks, malware and viruses. You need to be prepared and protected to ensure that you don’t leave your life and bank accounts open to theft, your systems vulnerable to attack and your identity used to perpetrate fraud.

Step 01: The antivirus

Invest into a decent antivirus solution that includes a good ransomware protection service and that affords you peace of mind when you’re online. If even one machine in your home network gets infected, it can run rampant across all your devices so this investment is invaluable. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on this either, you can use built-in solutions like Windows Defender on a Microsoft operating system or you can purchase solutions from well-known names like Kaspersky, Symantec and McAfee.

Step 02: Don’t click on it

This is perhaps the most important piece of information that will protect you online. If you receive an email from an unknown source asking you to click on a link or attachment, don’t. Notice the spelling, check the way the sentences are written – poor grammar and English are often a giveaway, although there are some very sophisticated systems that use excellent English so this is not a guarantee. The same applies to a random link or attachment from a friend’s email – make sure it really is from them first.

Step 03: Check the legitimacy

When it comes to websites, entering in banking information, providing personal data or anything else of a deeply secure or private nature, make absolutely sure that the site or app you are using is legitimate. Reliable and secure systems will have https in front or they will have the image of a lock. Also ensure that the site is spelled correctly – some phishing scams claim to be from your bank and direct you to a fake website that has a dodgy website address. Check that before you do anything.

Step 04: Don’t get conned

There are new emails going out that threaten you with blackmail if you don’t send them money. They often use one of your passwords – you may have been compromised in the past – to show that they know something about you, then they claim to have filmed you (using your PC camera) doing something illegal, then they threaten to release the footage if you don’t pay up. The truth is that they don’t, they haven’t, and you really shouldn’t do anything more than hit delete.

Step 05: Check your hacks

There is an excellent website called ‘Have I been pwned?’ that should be on everybody’s website bookmark bar. The brainchild of Troy Hunt, a security expert, the website allows you to immediately find out if your information has been put at risk thanks to a hack, a compromised online account, or a data breach. Enter in your email and find out. Then immediately go to Step 06.

Step 06: Get a complicated, heavyweight password manager

You can’t put your passwords in a little book you carry around with you, that’s an easy steal and all access party entrance to your system. You can’t use 1234 or your dog’s name or your child’s birthday, they are all the fastest route to being hacked. Instead, use very complicated 12-letter passwords that are impossible to remember and then store them in a secure password vault such as Lastpass or 1Password. These systems are hard vaults that only you can access with one master password.