We send email, undertake research, communicate with friends and family, pay bills and buy things from anywhere in the world.
The benefits are great but what about the dangers?
It’s estimated that more than half of all online New Zealanders are the victim of some form of cyber crime each year.
This includes computer viruses and malware, credit card fraud, online scams, phishing, identity theft and more.
It costs the country millions of dollars in financial losses and the time and expense to put things right again.
The Computer Security Tight Five
There’s strength in numbers – at the heart of the scrum sits the tight 5, the powerhouse of the pack, the driving force that gets you over the line.
To achieve your computer security goals you need your own tight 5.
Take the time to educate yourself about these 5 computer security activities and you’ll help protect your home devices or small business systems from common cyber incidents.
Read the introductions below and watch our five light-hearted videos:
- Think before you click
- Update everything
- Backup your files
- Secure your wireless network
- Use strong passwords
Think Before You Click
Phishing or social engineering attacks are increasingly being used by cyber criminals to trick internet users into revealing sensitive information – website login details, bank account or credit card details or personal data that forms part of your identity.
Phishing emails are designed to look official and may use an ‘urgent security alert’ or other reason for you to immediately visit a website to confirm your personal details.
Misspelt website addresses or URLs can be bought and set up to look similar to your bank website with copied logos and login forms.
A friend’s hacked email address can be used to send fake appeals for emergency help. Even social networks have been affected by spam or malware links added via rogue apps or compromised accounts.
Be careful when you receive emails requesting urgent account verification, when you’re sent unexpected attachments or see curious video or photo links posted on your newsfeed.
Don’t respond, download files or click on links to websites you’re suspicious of and investigate any offers carefully that appear to be too good to be true.
Just as your car needs servicing to keep running smoothly, your computer needs regular security updates to keep running smoothly online.
Criminals try to find new weaknesses in computers so by keeping yours updated you’re better prepared to stay one step ahead
- Make sure the operating system – like Microsoft Windows or Apple OS X – is up to date with all the latest security patches installed and will auto update in future
- Check that your software is also up to date, especially common ‘helper programs’ like Java and Adobe Reader and Flash
- Download the latest version of your web browser too
Back Up Your Files
If you store photos, your music collection or business information on a computer then make sure you have at least one backup copy should something go wrong.
Hard disks fail, viruses can wipe out data or your laptop may be stolen – it pays to be prepared with one or more copies of your important information kept securely elsewhere.
USB sticks, blank CD/DVDs and online ‘cloud’ storage services can all be used. Backup your data regularly, keep it secure and check your process works.
If you use technology on the go, also consider installing software that will let you track, lock or delete your data remotely should your smartphone or laptop be lost or stolen.
Secure Your Wireless Network
If you’re using a wireless router at home or work it pays to use strong encryption (look for WPA2) and a long, complex passphrase to avoid others stealing your data or bandwidth.
If you leave your Wi-Fi connection open, neighbours and passersby can surf for free using your data allowance or download illegal content through your account.
And remember, if you use your computer or smartphone on public Wi-Fi hotspots, you are potentially sharing your information with others on that network.
Think twice before using free Wi-Fi connections to bank, buy things, or read sensitive emails.
Use Strong Passwords
Even though it’s a lot, aim for 15 characters in your passwords and use a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. An example would be: Th1sI5a5tr0ngP@ssw0rd!
Don’t use obvious words like your nickname, the name of a family pet or a number sequence like 12345.
Keep your passwords secret, change them regularly and try to use a different password for every computer and website you access.
If you have a different password for online banking, your social networking profile, internet auction account and email service, should one site get hacked your other accounts won’t be so easily compromised.