We’ve all heard the horror stories. Friends or colleagues who’ve been the victims of a cyber attack that has wiped their home computer or who’ve had their identity stolen online.
Unfortunately, Australia’s wealth and our high use of technology including social media and online banking, make us an attractive target for hackers. And while popular images show hackers as loners in hooded jumpers operating in the dark, in reality cyber criminals are often big, well-organised, criminal groups.
It’s no good just hoping it won’t happen to you. There are steps you can take to help prevent it from happening, but most of us don’t know where to begin. Our IT security experts – who ensure your online experience with AMP is a safe and secure one – have provided their top six tips for keeping your home tech safe.
1. Be aware of cyber security
2. Back-up regularly
3. Keep your anti-virus software current and consider using OpenDNS at home
4. Keep software up-to-date
5. Don’t re-use passwords
6. Protect your email account
Be aware of cyber security
The first step is awareness, and if you’re aware of the risks you can protect your devices from the majority of techniques and tricks used by cyber attackers.
It’s a good idea to sign up with the Australian Government’s Stay Smart Online alert service, which provides information about recent online threats and explains how they can be managed.
One of the most common cyber attacks involves ransomware1 – malicious software that encrypts your files, such as your photos and documents, and then demands a ransom (typically a few hundred dollars) payable in crypto currency. Unfortunately, payment doesn’t guarantee your files will be recovered, and even if they are, your device will need to be wiped and re-built.
The best protection against a ransomware attack is to back-up your files regularly – both to the cloud and to an external USB drive2 that you keep offline.
Keep your anti-virus software current and consider using OpenDNS at home
Anti-virus software scans files to find viruses and malware which can corrupt your computer. But as new malware is being created all the time, you need to keep your anti-virus up-to-date to ensure you remain protected.
OpenDNS is a free cloud service that provides internet protection by blocking suspicious websites and malicious content. It’s easy to use and adds additional levels of protection to your home technology.
Keep software up-to-date
All software needs to be updated from time to time. Your device will remind you when a new version of the operating system or an app is available, but many of us ignore these updates. However, they often include fixes to security problems that have been identified in earlier versions, so it’s important to set aside time and make updating your devices a priority3.
Don’t forget to keep your mobile phone updated as well – both the operating system as well as the applications installed.
Don’t re-use passwords
A study into password re-use found that 60% of Australians use the same password across more than one of their online accounts4. Many of us do this as it’s difficult to remember multiple passwords, but it poses a considerable risk to our online security.
This is because over the past few years, there’s been a massive increase in the number of online breaches5 and exposure of usernames and passwords, which are then available to hackers to try and re-use on other popular online services.
Remember, treat your password like your toothbrush – never share it with anybody, and change it regularly.
Protect your email account
Email is considered the ‘crown jewel’ by hackers, as it can generally be used to reset your passwords for a whole range of your other online accounts, says AMP’s Cyber Security expert, Philip Hall.
You should look for an account that uses two-factor or two-step authentication to verify your identity, such as a password and an SMS code.
When it comes to your email password, try to choose a strong, uncommon password, and if you need to reset your password because your account’s been compromised, be sure to reset your secret questions at the same time to prevent the hackers from getting straight back into your account.
How to know if you’ve been hacked – and what to do
While sometimes it'll be obvious if you’ve been hacked – such as in the case of a virus or ransomware – you should also be suspicious if your device is running strangely, slowly, or you’re using more data than usual for a reason you can’t explain.
You should also report instances of cyber crime to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN).
How we protect you
Despite the risks, transacting online is quick and convenient for most people, and its take-up continues to grow.
AMP offers a range of different ways to connect, such as via our app, computer or tablet, and we take every measure to guard our online systems so you can rest assured that everything from your internet banking to super and insurance is in safe hands.
Shopping on a smartphone is convenient but there are security risks to be aware of.