Beware: cyber-criminals byte

The Australian Cyber Security Centre has re-branded its website to black and white to highlight the impact of cyber-crime as part of Stay Safe Online Week.

Stay Smart Online Week is running from 7-13 October. Image: Stay Smart Online

According to Scamwatch, in 2019 alone Australians have lost more than $95 million from online scams. There have been more than 118, 000 reports to Scamwatch throughout the year.

Spokesperson for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Tom Uren said everyday Australians are at risk.

“Directly, people can be scammed, their identity stolen, or they can be victims of identity theft of suffer from online bullying or harassment.

“Indirectly, all the services that we rely on are increasingly digital, or rely on digital technologies,” he said.

Identity and Security Counsellor at IDCARE Belinda Chapman said cyber criminals do not discriminate and everyone is a potential target of identity theft and the misuse of personal information.

People get scammed every day in Australia. Graphics: Kristen Ricciardi.

IDCARE is a national identity and cyber support service that is designed to help individuals who have cyber safety concerns.

Belinda Chapman said cyber criminals exploit the security weaknesses of individuals, big businesses and government departments alike.

“Whether the information was compromised as the result of a hack, a scam or a data breach, most cyber criminals are well trained and organised opportunists who are focused on one thing: financial gain.

“Some malicious actors set out to cause maximum chaos and pain for their victims,” she said.

Tom Uren said as the world gets increasingly digitally connected, we all rely more on technologies that were not built with security as a top priority.

“These technologies are amazing and allow us to work and play in totally new ways that can be both more efficient and more effective, but also come with increased risk.

“The security of these is a shared responsibility where everyone needs to play their part, so we need to have an informed public,” he said.

Belinda Chapman said there is no doubt that the human cost of fraud can be devastating, but the emotional and psychological stress of being violated online far outweighs the financial loss.

“Once your personal identity has been stolen, it is extremely difficult to ever reclaim it,” she said.

Protection from cyber-criminals

Belinda Chapman said every one of us can play our part in disrupting cyber-criminal activity by making cyber security an essential part of our everyday lives.

“There are a number of very simple things we can all do to thwart their efforts.”

Some Australians are protecting themselves online, but there is still more that can be done.

She said having unique and complex passwords for all online accounts is important.

“Using one password for all your accounts is like having one key which opens every door in your house… there are tools available online that can assist you in generating complex passwords and storing them securely.”

Director of Cut Once Project Services Nick Johnson-Pond said there are many tools online that can help people make good passwords.

He said Last Pass is just one such password tracking app and it is free and easy to use.

Government intervention

Although there are things we as individuals should be doing to protect ourselves from online threats, Tom Uren said there is more the government should be doing in the sphere of cybersecurity.

“Companies and organisations have avoided disclosing breaches, those responsible are not held accountable, and the community isn’t able to learn from previous breaches and incidents.

Stay Smart Online. Photo: Kristen Ricciardi.

“We need the government to encourage transparency, encourage good security and set acceptable standards, punish, and raise the bar of cyber-security across the economy,” he said.

The Federal Government has issued a discussion paper asking Australians to have their say in shaping Australia’s 2020 Cyber Security Strategy.

Stay Smart Online Week 2019 is running from 7-13 October. Click here for more information.