Stay Smart Online Week (12–16 October 2015) is designed to educate small business and individuals about keeping online information secure.
Australian internet users need to be aware of the different types of cyber threats so they can take reasonable steps to protect their personal and business information from being accessed and used by cybercriminals.
Cybercrime can take place in many forms, such as through malicious software (malware) installed on a person’s computer, malware ‘locking’ up a computer until a monetary or bitcoin ransom is paid (ransomware), or through targeted emails with malicious hyperlinks or attachments (phishing).
With cybercrime campaigns on the increase in both Australia and overseas, it is important for you to keep informed and stay alert of current internet threats, so that if a threat arises, you can protect your information.
The Australian Cyber Security Centre 2015 Threat Report found that ‘In 2014, malware, including ransomware, was the predominant cybercrime threat in Australia.’ Malware can be installed on your computer or mobile device without you even knowing it. Cybercriminals can then use the malware to steal personal information from your computer and use it for illegal purposes.
We operate the Australian Internet Security Initiative (AISI), which is an important initiative in the global fight against malware. Through the AISI, internet providers receive daily reports of malware infected or vulnerable services on their networks. Providers can use this information to identify and inform the customers associated with these services so they can take action to address the problem.
The AISI is just one of our programs targeting cyber security threats. Other programs include the Phishing Alert Service and the Spam Intelligence Database.
We recommend that all Australian internet users minimise the risk of malware infections by taking prompt steps to remove an infection once it has been identified. If users do not remove malware as soon as they locate it they may continue to harm other internet users, as infected devices often disseminate malware, spam and undertake other malicious activities on the internet.
So how do you identify malware?
It can be hard to identify malware infections, as sometimes they will have little or no noticeable effect on the operation of a computing device. The more sophisticated malware is designed to be hidden and stay in your system for as long as possible. It is possible malware may interfere with normal processing operations, which can cause:
- your computer to run slowly
- quick battery usage in portable devices
- unexpected errors or crashes
- sudden shut down or difficulty in restarting your computer.
If you suspect that your computer has been compromised you should follow these steps:
- stop any activities that require passwords or personal information (such as online banking or shopping)
- change your online passwords from another secure computer (such as your work computer)
- install reputable security software or update current security software and if needed, run a system scan (delete files flagged as malware and adopt recommended fixes)
- seek professional technical assistance if your computing device still shows symptoms of a malware infection.
Staying informed of the risks, alert to infections and installing software to keep your computer safe is your best protection against cyberthreats. It is equally important for people to use their common sense and be aware that there are cybercriminals who will try to steal, or hold your personal information to ransom.
All internet users, regardless of whether they have been infected, should take the following important steps to minimise the risk of them becoming a victim of cybercrime:
- Install security software, including antivirus software, and update it regularly.
- Set your computer to update anti-virus software automatically so you always receive the latest fixes and updates. Make sure your web browser and other applications are configured to receive automatic security updates.
- Back-up, back-up, and then back-up again! Having a copy of your valuable information regularly backed up on a secure device that is only connected to your network when the back-up is being performed will help prevent your data from being destroyed by malware.
- Do not share your personal information with anyone you do not know. Scammers will try to trick you into handing over your data by using the names of well-known companies or government departments. If you think it’s a scam, DON’T RESPOND. Use the phone book or an online search to check the organisation’s contact details. NEVER use the contact details provided in the original request.
- Use a strong password that is difficult to guess, and change it regularly. A strong password should be greater than 10 characters long and include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Use different passwords for every account or online profile, and use two-factor authentication where offered.
- Do not click on links or attachments in emails unless you know what they are.
- Protect your Wi-Fi network with a password and avoid using public computers or Wi-Fi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information. Stay Smart Online and the ACMA partnered to provide some helpful tips to users when connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots in Australia.
Further information and advice
Check out Stay Smart Online to learn more about online safety and security.
The Stay Smart Online Alert Service is a free service for Australian internet users, to explain recent online threats and how they can be managed.
Check out our malware video, cybersecurity blogs and subscribe to Cybersecurity news.
To report a cybercrime, please contact the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network.