Kiwis are known for their ‘she’ll be right’ attitude but when it comes to your online security, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
With reports of data breaches and online scams increasing each year, even taking just one or two simple steps can help keep us more secure online – whether that’s changing one password, downloading a password manager or investing in anti-virus software.
“When it comes to the internet, you always need to be on your guard. With massive increases in scams and phishing, criminals are taking advantage of Kiwis’ cyber ambivalence and walking away with millions of dollars each year,” says Customer Director Grant McBeath.
Prevention can go a long way in securing your connected presence and it’s a focus of the work done by the team at CERT NZ, New Zealand’s Computer Emergency Response Team. “At CERT NZ, it’s our job to help Kiwis who are affected by cyber security issues. A lot of the time the things that keep us safe online aren’t new or exciting, they’re the basics that we all keep saying we’ll get around to one day,” says CERT NZ Director, Rob Pope.
With this in mind Spark recommends these 10 tips for a secure 2020:
- Got a dodgy old password? Change it today - If you’re using the same password for everything, you could be leaving yourself open to compromise. If you’re using a short or reused password on your XtraMail account, change it today. The best passwords are long – think of a sentence of four or more words; you can also mix in some numbers and symbols too. Creating strong and unique passwords for your online accounts is one of the most effective ways you can protect personal information and keep yourself safe from cyberattack.
- Think you can just recycle passwords and be done with it? Think again - We get it – memorising piles of passwords is an arduous, often impossible task. But if you recycle your passwords, or even just vary it by adding in a character or two, it’s easy for cyber criminals to gain access to your other accounts. Instead, why not outsource the work to a password manager, an app or piece of software designed to keep your passwords locked up like a safe. CERT NZ has some helpful tips on their website.
- Use a different password for every online account you have - If you use the same password on multiple accounts, once a hacker has obtained access to one account, they could then gain access to all the accounts that share that same password. You don’t need to change them all today, think about making sure the accounts that hold your most important information, like your Xtra Mail, bank and social media accounts all have strong and different passwords. Where it’s available, you should also consider using two-factor authentication (2FA) to your login process to protect your accounts. This means you need to provide two things – your password and something else – before you can access an account.
- Keep your devices protected with software updates - It can be tempting to hit the ‘postpone’ button when your devices alert you of a software update. But software updates don’t just give you new features, they also fix security vulnerabilities. So, when your operating system, apps, internet browser or antivirus software tell you there are updates ready, install them as soon as possible. Even better, why not set them to update automatically?
- Watch out for spam emails and suspicious links - You may receive an email coaxing you to click on a suspicious link to claim a prize – if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Avoid clicking on any links if you have even a shred of doubt. Instead of the promised business class tickets to a tropical resort in Hawaii, the link could be trying to steal your personal information.
- Install antivirus software and scan for viruses regularly - You can protect your accounts with passwords, but what about your devices? Antivirus software provides another layer of protection, in case an attacker sneaks through your defences. There are plenty of options, like Trend Micro Maximum Security, which you can buy at any Spark store. Think of antivirus software as more like a vaccination than antibiotics – it should be used as a proactive measure, rather than after the fact.
- Back up the important things - Cybercriminals may lock you out of your online accounts, like Xtra Mail, and they might even delete information that’s important to you. So, it’s a good idea to back-up important photos, documents and messages with either hard copies, an external hard drive or cloud-based server.
- Keep an eye on your emails - If your account is compromised, it may not be obvious right away. So, it pays to check for unusual activity, such as settings changes, auto-forwarding rules you didn’t set up or password change requests that you didn’t make yourself.
- Got a weird invoice? Check by phone before you pay - Be wary if a company you often deal with changes their account payment details or payment instructions unexpectedly. If you’re unsure about an invoice, call the business directly to check the details before you pay.
- Get crafty with your security questions - Base your security questions on information that someone won’t find on your social media or other websites. It’s good to be as creative as possible when you’re asked to set the answer to a security question – as long as you can remember it, of course. For example, instead of being honest about what school you went to, you could say 'Hogwarts' instead.
For more details on how to protect yourself online, please visit www.spark.co.nz/scamalerts. And if you’re affected by a cyber security issue, help is at hand; just reach out to the team at CERT NZ www.cert.govt.nz/report.