Staying safe online

The internet has rapidly become a part of our daily lives, so at times it has been difficult to keep up with the latest online security measures and privacy protection. We have provided a brief guide to staying safe online for the home internet user.

Sending information through the internet

There are emails sent around that offer money or promise you something wonderful. Anything that seems too good to be true probably is. Also, your financial institution or any legitimate websites will never ask for bank or credit card information via email, so if you receive an email asking you to confirm any of these details, delete it.

If somebody is asking for identification details or birth date, only send this information if you know who the sender is. Keep up to date with the latest cyber-threats through technology and bank websites. The staysmartonline.gov.au website has a free subscription based service to keep you up to date with computer network threats.

Be conscious of what information you share online – posting information on a social networking site or any other website often means it is available for the public to see – across the world. There is no reason to share your address or phone number on a website.

Online payments

Only make transactions through well-known online payment sites such as PayPal, and don’t send bank or credit card details via email. If you are entering sensitive information such as credit card details into a website, make sure it is a URL which you have typed in yourself and that it is correct. Sometimes fake websites with very similar web address are created by scammers to lure you into sharing personal data.

It is a good idea when you are shopping online to ensure you are aware of all costs involved, including any high postage fees. When you have completed a transaction, keep a screenshot of the confirmation screen, or the email which contains the transaction record.

If you think you may have been caught by a scam or any of your financial details have been accessed, contact your financial institution as soon as possible. You can also report it to the Australian Security and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Securing your computer

Forget partner’s names, birthdates and consecutive numbers; and of course, using PASSWORD as a password. The securest passwords contain alphanumeric characters and contain upper and lower case letters (if the site allows this). If you write down your passwords, don’t keep them near the computer or stored on it. There are a number of online applications which can safely secure and manage your passwords if you can’t remember them all.

If you’re selling your computer or putting it into e-waste, wipe all the data off the computer - you don’t know who will be able to access your computer once you part with it, so format your computer before it leaves your possession.

To protect your computer from malicious software which can infect or corrupt the files on your computer, ensure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software. To monitor and protect what information is sent and received from your home computer, you should also install anti-spyware software, and setup a firewall. Ensure all of your security and anti-virus software is set to automatically update. New viruses are created frequently, so if you have not updated your software, you may not be protected against the viruses which are being sent around.

Don’t click on attachments or links in emails from unknown senders – If you don’t know the sender and the email seems suspicious, don’t open it. If you choose to open the email and something still doesn’t look right, don’t open any attachments or click any links, which may infect your computer.

Children on the internet

Know what they do online – make sure you are aware of which websites they are accessing, and you are aware of any new friends they have made online. If possible, setup the computer in a shared space so that you can monitor what your kids do online.

Just as with adults, younger people should be careful of what information they share – this means addresses (even vague area codes), phone numbers or school names should not be shared on any websites.

Control the privacy settings – most social networking sites should offer settings which control who can see your child’s profile. Younger people are recommended to only share their social networking pages with people they know.

Kids can contact the Cybersmart Online Helpline for kids at www.cybersmart.gov.au if they don’t feel comfortable speaking to anybody about any online privacy or cyber-bullying issues.