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How to avoid being a victim of cybercrime

Cyber Security Awareness Month puts focus on simple ways to thwart attacks.

  • Finance
  • Read Time: 4 mins

Whether we like it or not, computers are playing an increasingly important role in our lives.

Even if we don’t have a laptop, tablet or mobile phone, many of the services we use every day rely on interconnectivity to function. You may be surprised to know that many of our home appliances and devices are capable of connection to the internet.

While this, mostly, leads to convenience, sometimes things go wrong. Technical faults have shut down entire networks, including one in 2020 that forced more than 800 Coles supermarkets to close because their checkouts couldn’t operate.

When things go wrong with computers, it can be just a “glitch” in the system that’s easily repaired. But some outages or interruptions are intentional, caused by criminals trying to access passwords and other data so they can steal from a business and its customers.

In the past few years, we’ve seen cyberattacks on businesses including Optus, Medibank, and even Parliament House in Canberra.

We’ll never know the full number of businesses – or individuals – affected by cyberattacks. But we do know that there are people trying to hack into computer systems all the time, and using information gleaned from data breaches to try to separate us from our money.

The latest Annual Cyber Threat Report from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) indicates that a cybercrime is reported on average once every 7 minutes – a 13% increase from the previous financial year.

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month (CSAM) and all Australians are urged to improve their cyber security knowledge and take action to protect their information and devices. In collaboration with National Seniors, the AFP have created new 90-second videos that explain how to stay ahead of cyber criminals.

National Seniors’ research has showed that older people who were less familiar with digital technology were most likely to report being scammed. 1

National Seniors Australia Chief Operating Officer, Chris Grice said:

“With the removal of cheques and the transition towards a cashless society, seniors have no choice but to transact online exposing them to potential cybercrimes. In collaboration with the AFP, National Seniors aims to empower seniors with the knowledge, tools, and confidence they need to stay safe in the digital world.”

View the videos here.

The theme for 2023, “Be cyber wise – don’t compromise”, encourages businesses and individuals to take these four steps:

  • Update your devices regularly.

  • Turn-on multi-factor authentication.

  • Backup your important files.

  • Use passphrases and password managers.

Business email compromise

In one of the awareness videos, Detective Sergeant Mitch Pearson-Goff from the AFP Cyber Command highlights business email compromise.

This occurs when you receive an email that looks similar to a legitimate business email but is designed to defraud you of money or goods.

Examples of their activity include:

  • Invoice fraud where the bank and contact details are altered so you send money to the criminals rather than the business you think you are dealing with.

  • Employee impersonation, where a criminal uses a compromised email account to send a fraudulent business transaction or trick employees into revealing sensitive business information.

What to do

Ways to avoid being a victim include:

  • Don’t open links or attachments in suspicious emails, including those from people you don’t know.

  • In a business, limit the number of people who have access to sensitive systems, and make sure access is revoked when an employee changes roles or leaves the business.

  • Always confirm bank account details before transferring funds.

  • Alert your bank if you detect suspicious activity and report cybercrime immediately via the web page

  • If a threat of harm is made or there is an immediate risk to life, call 000.

Connect will publish further articles relating to Cyber Security Awareness Month over the next few weeks.

1Maccora, J., Rees, K., Hosking, D. & McCallum, J. (2019) Senior Surfers: Diverse levels of digital literacy among older Australians. Brisbane: National Seniors Australia

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