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15 March 2017

Opinion: Stay safe online

A little personal data can go a long way.

The focus of today’s World Consumer Rights Day is data security and we’re here to remind you to stay safe online.

How much of your information does someone need to access your bank account? Often it’s as little as your birthdate and address, plus another small piece of info such as your mobile number, your kids’ names, or the last bank transaction you made. You might be surprised just how easy it is for someone to find that information online.

How much do you share on social media? Is your mobile number on there? Your birthday? Photos of your house that give away your address? It’s part of how sites like Facebook are able to serve you targeted ads. But it can also be used by scammers. Search the site’s privacy settings and lock down your data to only those you trust.

In the past few years, we’ve seen WiFi-enabled toys broadcasting children’s conversations to anyone who wanted to listen, a massive network of hacked internet-connected appliances taking down websites such as Twitter and Sony’s PlayStation Network and even internet-connected cars have been taken over and stopped in the middle of the road. All of these were because of poor data security.

So-called “cyber” attacks are on the rise and scammers are getting more sophisticated. Businesses are being targeted as well as individuals. A recent survey of small businesses in New Zealand, by security firm Norton, found 20% had been targeted by a cyber-attack and that 16% of laptops and 28% of mobiles phone were not password protected. Those numbers are far too high. Are your devices password protected?

Don’t make it easy for the attackers. Remember the basics:

  • Have a strong password for every site you use (include numbers, letters, and punctuation; don’t use regular words).
  • Use a password manager if you find all those passwords hard to remember.
  • Turn on 2-factor authentication wherever you can.
  • Back up your important data to cloud services as often as possible.
  • Do NOT open attachments in emails unless you are 100% certain you know what they are.
  • Do NOT click on random links in emails.
  • Your bank will NEVER call and ask for your login details.
  • A cold call from a company telling you there’s something wrong with your computer is always a scam.
  • No one from an overseas country is trying to send you money for any reason. Always check if a friend is suddenly “trapped” in a foreign country and urgently needs money.

Following these tips goes a long way to keeping you safe online. Add some good security software to the mix, make sure you keep all your software up-to-date, and you can feel confident you and your information will stay out of harm’s way.

By Hadyn Green
Technology Writer

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