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Tips for staying safe online

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What you need to know


Tips to help you browse safely online


Your web browser is your window to the digital world. Whether it’s entertainment and news, or the ability to connect with friends and go shopping, the internet offers great experiences and a wealth of information. It’s hard to imagine our lives before the internet.

As in real life, when you’re online it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and ensure you trust those that you interact closely with.

Protect your device


Keep your operating system, security software, web browser and add-ons up-to-date by ensuring automatic updates are enabled or installed as soon as they are available. This dramatically reduces your device's exposure to malware. Be sure to read reviews of security software (such as anti-virus) to assess its reputation before you download them.

Is your browser session secure?


Before making a transaction or entering personal information on a web site, check that your browser address window is green, the URL (web address) has changed from 'http' to 'https' and that a closed padlock icon is present.

Go directly there


The safest way to access any web site is to type its web address directly into the browser and bookmark it. Hover over web links with your cursor to check for spelling errors or unexpected web addresses before you click. Phishing emails often contain links to dangerous sites.

Create strong, unique passwords


Choose passwords for your online services that are difficult for anyone else to guess. A strong password is long and complex (a variety of letters, numbers and other characters), unique (not re-used for other apps), current (changed at least every 90 days) and not obvious (avoid dictionary words, dates, names etc).

Maintain your privacy


Take charge of what you reveal about yourself online. Think twice about handing over any personal details unless you are confident it is absolutely necessary.

Take extra care when shopping and banking


Take extra security precautions whenever you log on to online banking or make other financial transactions.


Securing your smartphone and apps


Our smartphones have become central to the way we live our lives. They are our wallets, our loyalty cards, our maps, our personal secretaries and increasingly much more. By observing some simple practices, you can protect the information on these essential devices.

A secure device


Your mobile phone is normally under your watchful eye, but we all know someone who has lost their phone or had it stolen. Set your phone up to protect your information in the event this happens to you:

  • Set your mobile device to lock after a short period of non-use.
  • Use a strong, secret PIN/passcode and/or fingerprint detection.
  • Sign out of websites when you’ve finished browsing.
  • Use Apple’s Find my iPhone or Google’s device manager for Android, to help you locate your phone and wipe the data should it fall into the wrong hands.

Keeping up to date


Make sure your operating system and apps are up to date by ensuring automatic updates are enabled. Old versions of software can have security issues that fraudsters could use to get access to your data.



The way you use and download apps plays an important role in keeping your phone secure:

  • Only install apps from official stores, such as Apple's App Store or Google Play (for Android phone or tablet).
  • Check the name of the publisher before downloading the app.
  • Avoid installing apps from links received in an email, social media post, text message or a web page that doesn’t look right. The best way to download an app is to go to the store and download it from there.
  • Read user reviews and ratings to assess if an app delivers a good experience.
  • Many apps collect and send personal data from your phone, including your location and contacts. Keep on top of this by reviewing and managing permissions for each app. On an iOS device, this can be done under the 'Settings > Privacy' function. On an Android device, you can find them under 'Application Manager'.
  • Read the terms of any app looking to access your contacts, location or other personal information when you log in using a third party service (such as Facebook or LinkedIn).

Rooting and jailbreaking


Removing hardware restrictions (called rooting on Android and jailbreaking on Apple) on your mobile device in order to install unapproved third party apps or features weakens the in-built security protection, leaving your phone susceptible to malware and viruses.


Staying safe when using social networks


Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are great for connecting us with friends, family and colleagues as well as others that share our interests.

The profiles we create on social networks can reveal a lot of information. Have you ever thought that someone could use all this information in order to commit identity theft? What could a stranger learn about you by reading posts written by you or others on social networks?

It’s important for your online safety and privacy to think about the sort of information you’re sharing and who you’re sharing it with. The good thing is there are ways you can protect yourself online.

Circles of trust


You can be confident using social networks when you’re in control of who sees what you’ve posted, or anything posted about you. Here’s a few tips to help you build that circle of trust:

  • Be selective about with who you connect with
  • Did you know you can use your privacy controls to determine who can see your posts and information? On some networks, you can restrict posts exclusively to certain groups, such as your family or close friends.
  • Assume that anything you post on social networks is not completely private. If you don’t want anyone to see what you’ve posted it probably doesn’t belong on social.

Consider your digital footprint


The best way to protect yourself against online identity theft is to limit the ‘digital crumbs’ a stranger can gather about you. This means being careful about putting personal information such as your home address, phone number or account details on public forums.

Why don’t you try checking your ‘digital footprint’ now? Simply log out of all of your social networks and then look up your name in a search engine and assess the results.



Careful posting on social networks not only protects your reputation but also your physical safety, something you may not have thought much about.

Some social networks will offer you ‘geo-tagging’. This means they can put your location information in your posts. Before letting them do this it’s worth asking yourself some questions:

  • Does the service really need to know where you are to be useful?
  • Could there be other consequences from revealing where you are or where you spend your time?
  • Tempting as it is to put that post up to say you’re on the holiday of a lifetime on a tropical island, is it wise if your home address can be found online?

Another way social networks use tagging is when others post information and ‘tag’ you, for example, they have a photo of you and ‘tag’ you in it. You can set up an alert to let you know when this happens so you can see what is being posted about you and stay in control of your reputation.

Safe browsing habits


Safe browsing habits are just as relevant when using social networks:

  • Use strong passwords for all your social networks
  • Do not use the same passwords you use to log on to your online banking
  • Be careful with any unusual posts, such as a post from a friend recommending a website they wouldn’t normally be interested in
  • Sign out of your social network account when using a public computer
  • Hover your mouse over links presented in social posts to make sure they direct to a site you trust.


Protecting your privacy and identity online


The digital world offers great online experiences, whether it’s connecting with new people, sharing information or shopping and banking online. It is important to protect your privacy to ensure positive online experiences.

What is identity theft and how can I avoid it?


Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information to pretend to be you, usually to carry out fraudulent activity such as trying to access your bank accounts or opening a credit card account in your name.

You can reduce your risk of falling victim to identity theft with these tips:

  • Create strong, secure passwords, and change them regularly
  • Be suspicious of unexpected or unusual emails
  • Make sure your bank has your up-to-date contact details so they can get in touch quickly if they see any unusual activity on your accounts
  • If throwing out any personal or financial information such as bank statements or bills, shred or destroy them. If filing them away, make sure they are kept in a secure place in your home/office.

Consider your digital footprint


The best way to protect yourself against online identity theft is to limit the ‘digital crumbs’ a stranger can gather about you. This means being careful about putting personal information such as your home address, phone number or account details on public forums and social networks.

Why don’t you try checking your ‘digital footprint’ now? Just log out of all of your social media accounts and then look up your name in a search engine and assess the results.

Managing your cookies


Cookies are text files that are downloaded to your computer or mobile device when you visit a website. When you’re browsing, cookies gather information about how you use the website.

Cookies can be useful as they help you have an enriched and more personalised experience online by allowing sites to track your preferences as you browse. From time to time, it’s a good idea to check that you're comfortable with what cookies your desktop or device has collected.

You can usually manage your cookies and browsing history via your web browser.

Has your identity been stolen?


The moment you spot suspicious activity on your bank account contact your bank as soon as possible. Other signs of identity theft could be receiving bills for goods and services you didn’t buy or use. You might also notice you’ve stopped receiving expected mail, which could mean it’s being stolen from your mailbox or your mailing address has been fraudulently changed. If any of these are the case contact your local police immediately.


Keeping your information and money safe online


Whether you’re banking online, shopping on your favourite website or logging on to social media – strong passwords that you never share with anyone, and change regularly, are vital to keep your information and money safe and secure online.

To help you, here’s a guide to strong passwords and how to create one that’s easy to remember. A strong and secure password is:

  • More than 8 characters – the longer and more complex your password, the harder it is for someone to decipher it
  • Made up of a variety of letters, numbers and symbols
  • Unique (not re-used for other websites or apps)
  • Current (changed at least every 90 days)
  • Easy to remember, difficult to guess (avoid dictionary words, dates, names etc.)
  • Never shared with anyone, even family or friends.

Four tips when creating passwords


  1. Don't use the same password to access all the sites you use

    Create variations and change them at least every 90 days. Use a unique password for each of the most important sites that you visit, such as banking, online shopping and email.

  2. Easy to remember, difficult to guess

    Choose passwords for your online services that are easy for you to remember, but difficult for anyone else to guess. Don't use every day or dictionary words, part of your name or that of your family members, your date of birth, mobile number or other easily guessed passwords such as sequential numbers.

  3. Shorten a memorable phrase

    Create a password based on a phrase that only you know. If you’re saving for a trip to Hawaii, your password could be: $5kH?Al0ha! Alternatively, if vegemite is your favourite breakfast spread, try: <3VegeYum1. Naturally, don’t use these exact examples.

  4. If you need to write down a hint, disguise it

    Don't write down your passwords or PINs. Remember, your passwords unlock your accounts so never share them with anyone. If you need to record a hint, make sure it is disguised and secured.


Tips to stay safe when using email


Email is a great way to stay in touch with friends, send and receive documents, register for online services and subscribe to news and other alerts.

Observing a few simple practices will help ensure that you can stay safe while getting all of the benefits that email has to offer.

How to detect phishing


Phishing is bogus emails created by fraudsters. The aim of these emails is to trick you into clicking on links to fake websites, opening malicious attachments or revealing personal information.

Signs of a phishing email include:

  • They may not address you by your name
  • Misspelling and inconsistent graphics/ images are common
  • They may ask for sensitive information
  • Creating a sense of urgency – scammers may try to test your better judgment by stating that something needs your immediate attention
  • Sender address – does it look unfamiliar or peculiar?
  • They may contain unfamiliar or unexpected attachments – don’t open them as they may contain malicious software.

If you’re unsure about an email, contact the company using a phone number from their website (not from the email) before you reply.

Check that links in emails are legitimate by ‘hovering’ your mouse over the link to view the URL without clicking.

Never open an attachment that you’re unsure about as it may contain malicious software designed to infect your computer.

Other examples of phishing emails can be found on ScamWatch.

Managing your email accounts


Using the same email address for everything from banking to signing up to a gossip newsletter is a risk. It may make it difficult to manage your inbox and quickly identify emails that are legitimate. You are also at increased risk of your email being compromised when you use the same email to sign up for lots of services.

Consider having different email addresses for different purposes; one email address for your bank to use, another for family and friends and perhaps a different address for online newsletters.



Tips for safer online shopping and banking


In today’s online world, buying something new, paying a bill or streaming the latest music and movies is just a tap away. To get the most from these online experiences, it is important to be mindful of protecting our personal and financial information.

Consider these simple steps to shop and bank online with confidence.

Is the website safe?


If you're unsure about the legitimacy of a website, here are a few things to look out for:

  • Check the web address is what you expected (check for incorrect spelling)
  • Check that the site has a consistent design
  • Look out for poor grammar or spelling
  • Expect a green address bar with a closed padlock icon anytime you are asked to make a transaction
  • If you’re still unsure, use a search engine to check on feedback from other users of the service to get a better understanding of its credibility.

What security features should I look out for when I’m shopping or banking online?

You should expect to see that the URL (web address) begins with 'https' and a closed padlock icon in the address window when you are about to make a transaction on a shopping site. This indicates that the communication between your device and the shopping site is encrypted (unable to easily be intercepted or read).

Whenever you are about to log in to an online banking session, check that your browser address window is green and that a closed padlock icon appears in the address window.

Take advantage of additional security options


Protect your transactions with 'two factor authentication', an extra level of security, where available. This tends to take the form of a second way to identify you in addition to your password or pin, via something that you know or have.

Public Wifi


Take care with the type of information you type into your web browser when you’re connected to a WiFi network. You can be far more confident when connected to a trusted WiFi network, such as in your home, versus when you’re using an untrusted network, such as public WiFi in a coffee shop.

Browse safely


When you’re shopping and banking online, it’s important to follow general safe web browsing advice. See “Tips to help you browse safely online”


Smart, safe and connected families


The internet and mobile technology are firmly embedded in family life. Kids are growing up in an increasingly connected world and find it easy to stream the latest movie, chat with their friends any time they want, research an assignment for school or download the latest games.

It’s a good idea to make sure your kids can navigate the online world safely. This does not have to be overwhelming, in fact with a few simple tips, you can make sure the whole family is smart and safe online:

  • Take an interest in what your kids are up to online. Speak with them about who they’re connecting with, what they’re doing, and how much information they’re sharing. That way you can see any potential issues that a child may not be aware of.
  • Tell your kids not to give out personal information about themselves or the family e.g. full name, date of birth or address
  • Set clear boundaries for technology use and online behaviour, such as time limits
  • Keep up with the latest trends, technology and apps to encourage family discussions on online safety. You may even find yourself quietly enjoying the newest online puzzle or game!
  • Consider using parental controls where available on your devices.

To help you understand how kids are using technology, and to learn how to guide them in the digital world, the award winning ThinkUKnow program offers training for parents, carers and teachers.

If you feel your child is being bullied online, the Children's e-Safety Commissioner website provides information on what to do and allows you to report online bullying.