Protect yourself online  

Cyber Smart Week is 8 – 12 October, and during this week we encourage you to think about what you can do to protect your online self.

Whether you use the Internet for fun stuff like shopping, sharing photos and keeping in touch with friends; or serious stuff like banking, crowd sourcing and work – it is important to make sure that the only people who can access your online accounts are those who are supposed to.

Neglecting to secure your online accounts is a bit like going on holiday leaving the doors and windows open at home either.

CERT NZ, which works to improve cyber security in New Zealand, recommends four key ways for you to keep unwanted intruders out of your online life:

1. Use strong and unique  passwords – a strong password is one that you can easily remember but other people won’t easily guess (so avoid using birthdays, family members’ names, topics that you talk about frequently, etc).
You are also much better protected if you use different, unique passwords for each online account, rather than the same one or two for everything. If you’re worried about remembering them all, try using a password manager.

2. Use two-factor authentication (2FA) – this is when you need to enter a password and give one other piece of information before you can access the account. The second piece of information might be the answer to a question that only you could answer, or a code that is sent to your mobile phone.

Most banks already use two-factor authentication, and you can enable it on most other online accounts in your privacy settings.

3. Keep your apps up to date – updates to apps often include security-related software fixes. If you don’t install updates you could be leaving your device vulnerable.

4. Check your privacy – telling the world about your life might seem harmless but it can give someone enough information to steal your data and/or your identity. Think carefully before giving away information about yourself, including whether you really want to give your personal information to businesses.

If you are okay with sharing, at least check that the webpage is secure so that it’s less likely to be hacked by someone else. Secure pages have a URL that starts with HTTPS, and will often display a padlock icon next to the URL.

If you come across a cyber security problem, you can report it to CERT NZ.