If you aren’t protecting your personal information online, you could be sharing things you would rather keep private.
As more of our day-to-day lives take place online, for work, study, and socialising, we may share more than we intend to. Our personal information such as our contact details, financial or even sensitive information about our health or beliefs can be revealed online in ways we may not expect. Online tracking, sophisticated phishing scams and data breaches are just some of the issues that can have a serious impact on our privacy. In fact, Australians see identity theft and fraud, and data breaches and security, as the biggest privacy risks we face today.
Half of Australians don’t know how to protect their personal information.
Our personal information is valuable and worth protecting. But if you don’t know how, you are not alone. Even though most Australians (85%) have a clear understanding of why they should protect personal information, 49% don’t know how to go about it. Many aren’t doing enough to safeguard their privacy due to lack of time, knowledge and the perceived difficulty of the process.
It’s easier and faster than you think.
Whether you are at home or out and about, here are 10 simple and effective tips to help you protect your privacy online.
These ideas will help keep your personal information safe whether you’re browsing the web, shopping online or staying connected with loved ones.
- Use multi-factor authentication and strong passphrases – Using multi-factor authentication is the first line of defence when it comes to securing your personal information and protecting your privacy. If it’s not available, a strong passphrase may be the only barrier between your valuable personal information and a malicious or criminal attack. The most secure passphrases are long, complex and unpredictable, so are harder for machines to crack than passwords. Create unique passphrases for all your accounts which are made up of a few words and use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters.
- If your data is breached act quickly – In 2020, the OAIC was notified of over 1,000 data breach incidents. If your personal information is involved in a data breach, you should act quickly to reduce your risk of harm. Depending on the type of breach, steps you can take include changing your login details, watching out for scam emails and checking your account statements for suspicious activity.
- Talk about privacy with your children – Two in 5 Australian parents are unsure how to protect their child’s personal information online. Keeping children safe online starts with talking about privacy, and why they should protect their personal information. This helps create privacy awareness and encourages children to make decisions to protect themselves online.
- Update your security software – Turn on automatic updates for your operating system, software and apps so that your security is always up to date. You can do this in your device or software settings. Remember to install reliable security software on your computer to help reduce the risk of a data breach, or activate the protections built into your operating system. Seek out reputable anti-virus software that can detect and protect you from malware, adware and spyware.
- Check before sharing your personal information – Always ask why, how and who before giving out your personal information. Whether it’s in person or online, don’t give out your personal information unless you understand and are comfortable with how and where it is going to be used. A business covered by the Privacy Act or an Australian Government agency must only collect personal information that is reasonably necessary for their work.
- Shop online securely – Over 5 million Australian households made an online purchase in January 2021. When shopping online, it’s important to shop securely to protect your personal and financial information. Buy from reputable, well-reviewed brands with secure websites – look for a URL starting with ‘https’ and a closed padlock symbol. Use a secure payment method such as PayPal, BPay or your credit card – don’t use bank deposits, money transfers or other methods like Bitcoin. And consider how much personal data you should share in exchange for rewards or offers.
- Update your privacy settings – Do you know what a cookie is? A cookie is a small data file stored on your device’s browser that helps a website track your visits and activity. Cookies can be used to build up a picture of your browsing habits and interests for online advertising. Adjust your browser’s privacy settings to restrict access to your behavioural data. While adjusting your settings, consider limiting location tracking for your phone and apps to protect your privacy on the go.
- Beware of phishing scams – Phishing is a way that scammers try to trick you into giving out your information by pretending to be someone else. Phishing messages often look authentic and create a sense of fear or urgency. Be alert for unexpected requests for your personal details. Don’t click on any links in the message or provide any personal information in response, in case it’s a fake. If you’re ever in doubt, contact the person or organisation to check if they really sent you the message, and only get in touch by searching for and using the details on the organisation’s official website or other official sources.
- Secure your devices – Physically safeguarding your personal information will protect your privacy and reduce your risk of identity theft. Always secure your devices with a unique pin or another security measure, properly destroy personal information before throwing it out, and safely delete your data from devices before discarding them. This includes all portable storage devices such as memory sticks or external hard drives.
- Share online with privacy in mind. As we spend more time online in the pandemic and share more personal information, our digital footprint can create privacy risks. It’s good to stay connected online.