Scam risk and cybersecurity: Are you prepared?

We’re all aware of the risk of cybercrime after the well-publicised data hacks of Medibank Private and Optus.

In today’s digital age, threats to your online security have never been more real. Although many recent high-profile cases involved large organisations, email scams, cyberattacks and online scams also represent a major risk for individuals, particularly if you don’t possess the knowledge to strengthen your digital security.

Simple scams, big costs

According to the government’s Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), there were 256,842 scams worth $596 million reported to the ACCC’s Scamwatch in the 12 months leading up to February 2023. On average, a cybercrime is reported every seven minutes.

Scams come in all shapes and sizes, but some are more prevalent than others. Phishing emails that mimic your bank, unsolicited tech support calls, and fake lottery winnings are just a few examples. Be on the lookout for red flags like urgent requests for personal information, misspelled domain names, or unsolicited attachments. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Here are some common tactics that scammers use to catch people out:

  • Authority – Scammers often impersonate authoritative sources such as banks, government departments, solicitors, doctors, and public services to deceive victims into taking a specific action.
  • Urgency – Scammers frequently create a false sense of urgency to solicit a response. Have you ever received emails requesting a response “within 24 hours” or “immediately”?
  • Emotion – Scammers employ threatening language, make false claims of support, or manipulate your emotions to pique your curiosity.
  • Scarcity – Whether it’s concert tickets, money, or an all-expenses paid trip to a dream destination, the fear of missing out on a great deal or opportunity can prompt hasty responses.

Reporting a scam is not only a crucial step in safeguarding yourself but also in protecting others from falling victim to fraudulent activities. When you encounter a scam, whether it’s a phishing email, a fraudulent phone call, or any suspicious online activity, it’s imperative to report it to the relevant authorities immediately. If you receive a fraudulent message or phone call you can refer to ACCC’s Scamwatch. You can also report any incidents of cybercrime to ACSC’s ReportCyber platform. By reporting scams, you play an essential role in making the digital world a safer place for everyone, helping to disrupt the operations of fraudulent actors and prevent future victims from being ensnared in their traps.

Steps to protect yourself online

Software Updates

As technology evolves, so do cyber threats. Software updates, including operating system patches and application upgrades, often contain critical security fixes that address vulnerabilities discovered by developers and security researchers. Neglecting these updates leave devices susceptible to exploitation by cybercriminals. To stay ahead of potential threats, it’s important to regularly update all connected devices, from computers and smartphones to smart appliances. Taking a proactive approach enhances your digital defences, reduces the risk of data breaches, and fortifies your overall cybersecurity posture.

Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) adds an additional layer of protection beyond the traditional username and password combination, requiring users to provide at least two different types of verification before granting access. This approach bolsters security by reducing the risk of unauthorised account access, even if passwords are compromised. MFA methods can include something you know (like a password), something you have (such as a mobile device or security token), or something you are (like fingerprint or facial recognition). By incorporating MFA into your digital habits, you not only strengthen your defences against cyber threats but also contribute to the broader cybersecurity landscape, making it exponentially harder for malicious actors to breach your accounts and systems.

Creating Unique Passphrases

In situations where multi-factor authentication (MFA) is unavailable, a secure passphrase acts as the sole barrier protecting your information and accounts from cybercriminals. A passphrase, unlike a conventional password, consists of four or more randomly selected words.

To enhance your security, it is essential to transition from passwords to passphrases while ensuring the following:

  • Length: Aim for a lengthy passphrase, as longer ones are more secure. Ideally, your passphrase should exceed 14 characters in length.
  • Unpredictability: Craft your passphrase using a random combination of unrelated words to make it challenging for potential attackers.
  • Uniqueness: Avoid recycling passphrases across multiple accounts to prevent vulnerabilities in case one gets compromised.

If you find it challenging to remember multiple passphrases, consider utilising a password manager. This tool allows you to memorise just one password, as the manager takes care of the rest. For additional guidance, you can explore further advice on password managers by searching ‘password manager’ on cyber.gov.au.

In the digital age, achieving effective protection against cyber threats while maintaining usability, privacy, trust, and speed is an ongoing challenge. Education and awareness play a vital role in equipping individuals to make informed decisions and safeguard their digital assets.

At Alteris, we employ the highest levels of security and ensure all our staff are trained to identify and react to any potential threats. By prioritising cybersecurity, we uphold our responsibility to safeguard the financial well-being and data privacy of our clients.

 

Sources

https://www.cyber.gov.au/protect-yourself/easy-steps-secure-yourself-online

https://www.cyber.gov.au/learn-basics/explore-basics/mfa

https://www.cyber.gov.au/learn-basics/explore-basics/recognise-and-report-scams

 

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