Research

Is your private data as secure as you think?

Security in the age of cyber.

Cybercrime is the dark shadow that accompanies the ease, convenience and entertainment afforded to us by the internet. It’s a growing problem for law enforcement, businesses, governments and individuals and the reality is that many of us will be touched by the scourge of online crime at some point in our lives.

Today, we seamlessly and repetitively communicate; sign up; and make transactions using online conduits – and we do it all without a second thought. It’s a form of technology that has become increasingly ubiquitous and familiar to us in a relatively short space of time, and it’s that sense of familiarity that can make us less vigilant about the inherent risks of an online environment.

In 2017 Telstra released the results of a study it conducted into online crime. The study reported that cybercrime rates had doubled during the previous 12 month period, and that almost 60% of Australian companies surveyed had detected a security incident in 2016.

This could be one reason why Australian statistics on cybercrime continue to paint an alarming picture of escalating threat, despite the development and implementation of increasingly sophisticated, and costly, cybersecurity measures.

If we hope to stay one step ahead of hackers and charlatans, as a society, then vigilance at an individual level has an important part to play.

Building your cyber-smarts

On a broad level, corporations, governments and businesses have been busy implementing clear policies on cyber security, including a risk framework and internal monitoring, as well as investing in a strong culture and providing employees with training.

For individuals, there is no recommendation that can guarantee a safer and more secure online presence, but there are some basic tips that some people opt to utilise for added peace of mind:

  • Be realistic about the risk and don’t become complacent. One Australian Government report published online in 2017 put the number of Australians reporting scam activity during 2016 as being at a record high, and increase of 47% on the previous year.

  • Everything seems to require a password these days, and remembering multiple complex passwords can be difficult. This has led to some people opting for simple combinations that are easy to remember – or combinations of names and birthdates. Doing so presents an increased cybersecurity risk, firstly by making it easy for others to guess your passwords and secondly by making it easier for hackers to decipher encrypted combinations. The high number of sites needing passwords can also tempt people to use the same password across multiple websites and devices. This is another security risk, as a hacker who accesses one account will instantly have access to all accounts with the same password.

  • Use a strong mix of characters. Include upper and lower case letters, include at least one number, and include symbols or punctuation marks for an added degree of difficulty.

  • Never write your password down or share it with others.

  • Never leave any of your devices unattended. Always log out.

  • Avoid clicking on any attachments or links unless you are absolutely sure they come from a credible source. Even attachments or links forwarded to you by well-meaning friends or colleagues could be embedded with viruses.

  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi whenever possible. Only do online banking or shopping on your own device. Data can be stolen via Wi-Fi services.

  • Always install updates when you receive them to keep security systems up-to-date and make sure you regularly back up your data.

  • Only use your own flash drives or those from a source you trust and don’t plug anyone else’s hard drive or smartphone into one of your devices. Malware can be spread via infected plug-in devices.

  • Do not overshare on Facebook or other social media platforms, including details of where you live or photos that can reveal personal information. On Facebook, do not add friends or follow people you don’t know and trust. Select the ‘Limit the Audience for Past Posts’ option to reduce your exposure. Lock your Twitter account, so that potential followers need to request and be approved before becoming followers. On Twitter, restrict the audience for your posts to your followers.

  • Turn of the Location Sharing feature on your devices unless you are required to use it for navigational purposes.

  • Do not provide private information over the phone. If they claim to be a business or organisation, call them back on their listed number to confirm they are from that company.

For information on investment opportunities in in the expanding Cybersecurity area, please contact your Morgan Stanley Financial Adviser.

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