Staying safe in today's digital world

Two-factor authentication might provide a good defence but consumers and businesses both have a shared responsibility when it comes to protecting their passwords.

As a self confessed “tech-head”, I’m fascinated by the rapid growth of digital technology and the way the internet has unquestionably made our lives easier.

Technology has certainly changed since I first cut my teeth on it by pulling apart and tinkering with personal computers in the 1980s.

Today, the digital world offers speed and convenience, but our comfort with transacting online should never lead to complacency about protecting ourselves.

This week is National Cyber Security Awareness Week, an Australian Government initiative to raise awareness about cyber security and the simple but important steps we can all take to protect ourselves from online threats.

Throughout the week, research, advice and tools have been provided to help Australian internet users and businesses better manage their online transactions.

A plethora of passwords

Some interesting research was released this week that shows how most Australians manage their online passwords and proves the need for building awareness on cyber security.

Did you know that:

  • the Average Australian internet user has more than 12 protected passwords
  • around two thirds of us (67 percent) admit to not changing them as regularly as we should
  • two in five of us (43 percent) believe someone else knows at least one of our passwords.

Protecting our banking, financial, social networking and other accounts depends on choosing and remembering strong, unique passwords. Stay Smart Online highlighted the importance of doing this in its Top 10 Tips.

There are other simple steps we can take to safeguard our online transactions including installing security software and keeping it up to date, researching online suppliers before making purchases and subscribing to the free Stay Smart Online Alert Service, to keep up to date on recent online threats and scams.

Australian businesses stepping up

Just as all Australians must protect their own cyber security, businesses must also take responsibility to protect their customers’ information.

One improved security service now used by many banking services and online organisations is two-factor authentication. This is a security feature that requires users to provide two pieces of privileged information before being allowed to access their online account. It’s an extra layer of security that works by requiring you to provide “something you know” and “something you have”, with the most common example being a password and the code from an SMS sent to your mobile phone.  So someone trying to impersonate your online identity would need both your password and your phone to access the relevant online account.

Pleasingly, more Australian businesses and online services are expected to offer two-factor identification and other forms of security. They’re also taking the time to examine the latest trends and emerging online threats. That was a focus for business leaders and some of the nation’s leading cyber security experts who came together for Over the Horizon, a key event in National Cyber Security Awareness Week.

Discussion covered how industry and Government can continue to collaborate on what’s next – from the impacts of cyber security issues on small business, trends in mobile and cloud computing, to managing online identity.

Clearly our deeper industry engagement and focus, and the support of close to 1,400 organisations who are National Cyber Security Awareness Week partners, shows Australia is serious about becoming more cyber secure.

We’re building groundswell of support I could have never imagined all those days ago when it was just me and computer parts strewn across the garage.

Bartek Marnane is a Stay Smart Online ambassador and the General Manager of Business Operations at online ticketing vendor Moshtix.