By Roisin Mulcahy

How often do you actually read the terms and conditions when you download an app? Probably, never right? If you haven’t got the time to scroll through lengthy T and C’s, there are a number of other precautions you can take to protect your privacy.

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[Source CC: “Hacking Cyber” by iAmMrRob Pixabay].

 You might be wondering what the big deal actually is. For starters, your personal email address and phone number are worth a lot of money to both legitimate businesses and also some hackers. The bad guys on the internet want to steal from you. The businesses want to find out as much as possible about you so that they can sell you products and services. The more companies know about you, the better they can target ads that are relevant to your preferences and demographic.

Being aware of the risks you face online will help you make informed choices about how you use the internet.

1. Use strong passwords

This tip is super simple and yet not many people follow it! You’ve probably heard it a million times, but it’s important not to make all of your passwords the same. While it is hard to remember 20 different strong passwords, it will certainly be worth it. Just think, if one password is stolen and you use the same one for other accounts, all will be at risk of hacking!

Passwords that are more complex are harder to crack: so, mix lower and upper-case letters with symbols and numbers. Don’t use the numbers of your birthday or birthday year (it’s too obvious and many accounts such as Facebook may publicly share your date of birth). Another great trick to make acronyms! For example:

Sentence:  My dog Spot is 14!

Password: MdSi14!

2. Don’t click on a link you don’t recognise

Malware – or malicious software – is both cheeky and dangerous. Clicking on unknown links can lead to ‘phishing’ sites that will try to steal your usernames and passwords. They also have the potential to attack your devices with viruses, Trojans or spyware. Sometimes these can be hard to spot and preventing attacks therefore requires diligence when opening unknown emails – particularly those containing links or attachments. Another big tip is to never click ‘OK or ‘AGREE’ to close a tab or exit a website you don’t trust (such as when you’re streaming a movie or show) as these buttons often contain links to harmful malware.

Despite this, it is important to remember that whilst malware presents a legitimate risk to the privacy of your personal information, there is no need to panic! If you pay enough attention it will be easy to recognise phishing emails and ultimately prevent these attacks.

3. Turn on private browsing

Private browsing means that your device will delete cookies, temporary browsing files and your history every time you close a browser window. Companies that use online ads know what sites you visit, what you’re buying and who you know in order to market their products. If none of your information is public, they can’t get your private information.

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[Source: “https” by Sean MacEntee CC-BY-2.0 Flickr].

Another tip when you’re searching on the internet is to make sure all your URLs have ‘https’ before the link. If you have ‘http’ (without the s) on your link, it means that the connection between you and the website is open and anyone who comes across your internet connection can see what you are looking at. This is especially important if you are online shopping, and you should always make sure you are purchasing from secure sites. Checking if sites are secure is easy – you just need to look for a lock symbol in the address bar.

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[Source: “Adulthood Meme” by Brit Bennett Me.Me].

4. Update everything ASAP

Often when you are notified to update an app,  it will be because of updates to its privacy policy. You should try to complete the update as soon as possible (after reading it of course!) because often companies make these in order to increase security.

Automatic updates are also a great option if you don’t mind using your data, because that way you don’t even need to think about it!

5. Start Unsubscribing

Remember that website you signed up for in order to get a 10% discount code or that website you signed up for 10 years ago and are still receiving emails from? Well, it’s time to unsubscribe. Most sites give you the option of unsubscribing to their emails and to the site altogether if you scroll to the bottom of your email. This only takes 1 minute out of your day and is a super easy way to remove your personal details from the internet!

For more information visit:

Australian Government – Protecting Yourself Online

Australian Government – Stay Safe Online

Australian Government – 8 Simple Tips


[Header Image CC: “Anonymous Hacktivist” by TheDigitalArtist Pixabay].

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