Staying safe online – Tips to get started
Cyber security made easier for you
Cyber security can be an intimidating and complex topic. Headlines of hacks, scams, phishing, and identity theft can make cyber security seem like something for tech experts, leaving the rest of us feeling vulnerable or uncertain about what to do. But the great news is that with a bit of reading, watching a video or two, and forging good online safety habits over time, everyone can learn to protect themselves.
And it doesn’t have to be that difficult, either. Many of the tips and tricks we recommend are designed to set-and-forget, or are time-savers, like helping you fill out online forms faster or shop online with confidence and ease, all in a secure way.
Put your mind at ease
The first step is to build your confidence. Despite any uncertainty you may be feeling, you really are your own best defence.
One way to start building your confidence is by understanding how, in a lot of ways, you’re likely already protected and, more importantly, how you can make sure to stay that way.
Let’s focus on two things that probably affect you every day: your smartphone, computer or other devices, and safely logging into accounts, like your bank account.
Keeping your devices up-to-date
Smartphones have come a long way. The security threats that affect older smartphones largely no longer worry new devices because there have been big security improvements to the software that makes them run, like Android and iOS. And this software is constantly being updated to stay ahead of hackers.
Unfortunately, older phones often don’t receive those security updates anymore. This depends on how long the device manufacturer chooses to support a certain device.
Here are two easy steps you can take to make sure your device is up to date:
- Check whether you’re running the latest software version on your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
- Make sure automatic updates are enabled so you always have the latest version installed.
For phones or tablets
To check what the latest version of your phone or tablet's operating system is, you may need to go to Google and search for ‘what is the latest Android version’ or ‘what is the latest iOS version’ (or replace it with whichever operating system you're using) and check that against your device's software version to see if you have the latest one.
You can check your device's software version in its device settings. Not sure where to find it? Try searching for 'check software version of [insert the phone or tablet you want to check]' on Google.
If you don’t have the latest version installed and you can’t do an update, then your smartphone or tablet may no longer be supported by the manufacturer. You should be able to find that information on their website or by contacting them.
For Macs. laptops or desktop PCs
Laptops and computers with the latest operating systems, like Windows 10 and Windows 11, and Mac OS, have also come a long way. Security once bolted-on is now built-in and invisible. Make sure you have automatic updates enabled on these devices, too.
To make sure your Windows computer is up-to-date, try Googling: 'how to keep Windows up to date'.
If you're on a Mac, try Googling: 'how to keep my Mac up to date'.
It’s not advisable to keep using a device that doesn’t receive security updates anymore because they could be open to increased risk from cyber criminals.
There are some extra defences you can use to improve your security further still. First, we’ll talk about multi-factor authentication.
Verifying it’s really you
You may have noticed many companies now ask you for additional ways to verify they’re dealing with you and not somebody pretending to be you. This could be in the form of a PIN, a one-time code sent to one of your devices, fingerprint or facial recognition, and so on. These ‘multi-factor authentication’ tools don’t ask you reveal your passwords and should be taken up whenever possible to secure your accounts.
Look at your most important accounts online and review your profile. Check your details are correct and take up any additional security features available, especially multi-factor authentication.
Scammers and social engineering
Now for some less good news: while your devices have become much more secure, they can still be hacked or become infected with a virus through scams and phishing that try to convince the people using those devices to click on a malicious link, install malicious software, fill in personal details on a malicious site, or other ways. Despite device advancements and increased account security, scams and breaches still happen regularly.
Scammers are more likely to succeed if they call or email you during a busy moment, or catch you when you're distracted. It's much more difficult to recognise a scam in those moments, especially if they put additional pressure on you, like telling you to do something quickly or there'll be a consequence (like a cancellation or a missed offer). This is called social engineering and scammers use it to manipulate people into giving away their personal information, like passwords or bank details.
A criminal who sounds convincing enough might get you to, for example, click through to a website where they’ll ask you to full in that personal information, or to install an app that contains a virus.
Criminals hope to appear legitimate and often pretend to be from a trusted brand, like Telstra, in a bid to get you to follow their instructions.
How to recognise a scam
It’s true that a lot of scams have typos and misspelt words, odd phrases, big promises, and strange links. They often also come from email addresses or phone numbers that don’t match those a company or organisation typically uses when they get in touch with you.
Trusted institutions like Telstra, your bank, and many others will also never ask you for your password in any way, be it an email, phone call, or message. No company should.
While scammers use the same tactics year-to-year, the themes often change, so if anything sounds a bit odd, don’t engage them. We know that it can be difficult saying ‘no’ to someone who sounds helpful over the phone. Scammers know this too well and they exploit that goodwill.
It’s good to always be mindful of the unexpected and as a general rule of thumb, if something looks suspicious or sounds too good to be true, then is usually is.
You can view the latest current active scams here. This page includes other helpful resources to help you stay vigilant. It also covers what to do if you think you've been scammed and how to report one.
BeConnected run regular webinars on this topic. Information is also available in multiple languages.
- If a call sounds suspicious, simply hang up, and know that you can always follow up by calling the company back on their official number you find on their official website. Don’t trust any link, website URL, email, or phone number they give you. It is likely to be part of the scam. Instead, search for it online and find the official website, if they have one.
- Your trust online should equate to that when travelling overseas. Imagine you are in a busy market. You might have pickpockets front of mind, so you put your passport, money, and other precious items somewhere secure. You might also be a little sceptical of the promises being made from strangers. It’s no different online and on the phone. Your natural instincts are your best guide.
Verifying messages from Telstra
You can check if any Telstra message (email or text message) is legitimate using the My Telstra app notification centre. In here, you can see all the messages sent by Telstra, so if it's there, it's really from us.
Every month, Telstra blocks 100 million scam text messages, 10 million scam calls and 1 billion scam emails before they reach you.
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