Cyber Safety 101: What Young Australians Need To Know

Phone password lock for mobile cyber security or login verification passcode in online bank app. Data privacy and protection from hacker, identity thief or cybersecurity threat. Laptop and smartphone.

Young Australians (age 16-25) are the most active internet users compared to the other age groups. Whether it’s for schoolwork, online classes, or scrolling through the endless sea of TikTok and Instagram posts. It’s safe to say that our nation is filled with tech-savvy youth who live one foot in the digital world. 

However, with great connectivity comes great responsibility. With so many cyber threats, keeping safe on the World Wide Web is more important today than ever before. So, how does a young Aussie keep themselves safe online?

Here are 6 cyber safety tips that offer crucial knowledge for treading the online field.

  • Be Aware Of Malware

Have you ever heard of malware? Malware is a broad term that includes various types of malicious software. It’s the digital world’s version of a sneaky intruder that enters your devices and wreaks havoc when you least expect it. Malware comes in many forms and poses serious risks to your digital security. Imagine opening an innocent-looking email attachment only to find your files locked and held for ransom by malicious software. Scary, isn’t it?

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution — malware protection. Malware blockers protect your devices from hackers and cybercriminals. These blockers scan everything you download or any website you visit for malware entry points. Installing a malware blocker on your browser, lets you rest easy knowing that your digital castle is safe. So, don’t sleep on this one. It’s a small effort on your part to ensure that your digital life remains secure. 

  • A VPN Should Be Your Best Friend

As a young Aussie, chances are that you’ve probably used a VPN to access geo-restricted TV shows, movies and games. But did you know that the benefits of a VPN go way beyond streaming your favourite overseas content? 

A VPN encrypts your data and uses secure servers to hide your IP address and shield your online activity. A great example of how VPNs can protect your privacy is looking at the daily task of banking online. A VPN helps to cover your transactions from snoopers, shielding you from potential threats like phishing scams and identity theft.

For a young adult who enjoys public Wi-Fi networks at school, cafes, airports and fast-food joints, a VPN is a lifesaver. This is because public Wi-Fi connections are easy to hack. They provide a backdoor for cyber thieves to steal your sensitive information. Fortunately, a VPN encrypts your data and filters it through a secure server, safeguarding you from anyone else using the same public network to access your data.

  • Password Protection Is Key

Ever heard the saying, “Your password is like a toothbrush: don’t share it with anyone and change it regularly”? Yes, it may sound trivial, but a strong password is your first line of defence for keeping cybercriminals out of your accounts.

With that said, what makes a “strong” password? For one, it does not include personal details such as your birthday, favourite sports team, or pet’s name. You’ll want to set passwords that contain a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. The more complex your password is, the more difficult it is for hackers to access your accounts.

Despite the convenience, using the same password for your accounts isn’t the best idea. A security breach of one account might lead to the rest becoming compromised. Does it sound difficult to remember so many passwords? We recommend using a reliable password manager to make things a little easier. These tools can generate unique passwords for each of your accounts and store them for you. This way, you can relax knowing that your accounts are secure, while avoiding the headache of memorising 15 complex passwords. 

  • Be Social Media Savvy

Most young Aussies spend plenty of time on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, and chances are you do, too. But when it comes to cyber safety, social media can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s great for keeping up with current events and information and staying connected with our loved ones.

However, despite the allure of instant dopamine hits of likes, shares, and comments, we need to recognise that social media presents certain dangers. These platforms can be full of cyber criminals looking to take advantage of inexperienced users.

A great start would be to take the time to tailor your privacy settings and avoid openly sharing personal information such as your live location. By limiting who can see your posts and information, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to scams or cyberattacks. It’s also best practice to avoid accepting friend requests from unknown people. Proceed with caution if you receive messages or attachments from people you don’t know well.

By exercising discretion and awareness, you can enjoy the benefits of social media while safeguarding your privacy and security.

  • Prioritise Safe Online Shopping

Gone are the times when you had to spend hours in a department store or mall to satisfy all of your retail-related urges and needs. With the rise of online shopping giants like Amazon, Catch, MyDeal, and Kogan, anything you can think of is just a few clicks away.

The most recent Australia Post study found that e-commerce has expanded in recent years. According to the findings, 82% of Australian houses shopped online in 2023. This demonstrates how the internet has influenced Australians’ shopping habits.

One of the things that requires special attention when online shopping is your cybersecurity. Given that a seemingly new threat is popping up in every corner of the internet, it’s essential to protect your data while you shop. Some of the best practices include:

  1. Only making purchases from verified websites with secure payment gateways. 
  2. Looking for a padlock symbol near the browser address to ensure a secure connection.
  3. Utilising payment methods that offer buyer protection, such as credit cards or PayPal. 

By taking these steps, you can be certain that your personal and financial information is safe as you shop to your heart’s content. 

  • Don’t Forget Software Updates

Last but not least — regular software updates are a cornerstone of good cyber hygiene. This is because software updates often focus on patches for known security vulnerabilities. Ignoring these crucial updates is like leaving your front door unlocked at night: it leaves you vulnerable to potential intruders.

Updates don’t just fix security loopholes. They also help enhance performance and stability, and include new features, like when you update your phone’s operating software. By keeping your equipment up to date, you ensure optimal performance. So, don’t ignore the next notification about updating your software. It might very well save you time, frustration, and potential security breaches down the line. 

Keeping Young Australians Cyber Safe

And there you have it — 6 tips to protect yourself from cyber threats and navigate the vast world of the internet with confidence. From using malware blockers to practising safe online shopping, each small step will add up to make a huge difference.

Start your cyber safety journey today and empower yourself in the digital age.

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