Many aspects of our lives, both personal and professional, are now online. This means that the risk of suffering a cyber attack – a hacker’s attempt to damage or destroy a computer network or system – is higher than ever.
You might think that cybersecurity risks are reserved for major corporations or governmental sectors, but in reality everyone is susceptible.
This is increasing because of how so many of us store sensitive information in the digital sphere. The likelihood of becoming a cyber-attack victim, as well as the need to prevent this from happening, has heightened.
Think back to the large-scale cyber attack on the Australian Federal Parliament in February 2019, just months ahead of the Federal Election. Scott Morrison revealed to Parliament that the Liberal Party, Labor and the Nationals’ IT networks were hacked by “a sophisticated state actor”.
It’s important to be aware of the cybersecurity risks that you’re vulnerable to, even as a member of the community. No one is immune from attack.
Common bad cyber security habits
Cyber vulnerability is at an alltime high. In January 2019 alone, 1.76 billion records leaked, from data being stolen through malicious apps, to hackers stealing credit card details from an online retailer’s online database. It’s clear that this issue is varied and problematic.
Common mistakes which leave us open to these attacks include:
- Using the same passwords for your work and personal email accounts
- Having simple passwords for your cloud-based storage like iCloud, leaving a wide array of personal data at risk
- Not continuously updating apps or software for the latest security features
- Accessing data over public or unsecured Wi-Fi
These bad habits can result in hackers claiming our financial information, work files, and even more personal information like photos and social media messages. Bad credit ratings, an inability to access your computer, or even total identify theft can be consequences of a simple digital bad habit, leaving your life or career at potential risk.
A whopping 47.1% of Australian homes have more than five smart home devices connected, according to the Avast Smart Home Report 2019. At least 33.4% of these include at least one vulnerable connected device - this has the ability to compromise the entire home network’s security.
Two out of five homes are vulnerable to cyber attack and significant information loss, with 47.1 per cent of Australian homes having more than five smart devices connected.
Given Australia’s demand for cyber security skills isn’t meeting the supply, this poses a big problem.
Australia’s cyber security skills shortage
Analysis has revealed a significant cybersecurity skills shortage in Australia. Cyber attacks are costing Australians more than $400 million in lost revenue and wages according to AustCyber (the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network) and its 2018 Cyber Security Sector Competitiveness Plan.
Currently, Australia’s cyber security workforce is short of approximately 2,300 workers, with the country needing up to 17,600 additional cyber security employees by 2026. With a larger digital workforce, Australia will be better equipped to handle the cyber security needs of industries such as:
- Health (hospitals and pharmaceutical companies)
- Advanced manufacturing
- Oil and gas
Given the cyber skill shortage, the pressure is on to protect your digital information in a preventative manner.
How can you stay protected?
There are ways to lower your risk of having precious data stolen, both at a personal and a company-wide level.
Stay up-to-date with security systems
Having a strong cyber-security system is key. This is far from set and forget. Hackers are constantly evolving their techniques, which means you need to have the latest updates to your software installed across all devices. This can be done as part of software updates, which you will be prompted to do from time to time. Don’t put this off.
Whether they’re devices used personally or within a company, you need to stay on top of these updates to ensure others aren’t bringing in viruses or spam from their own browsing.
Change your passwords regularly
A lot of people use simple passwords they can easily remember but it’s recommended to change them frequently. This is particularly important for online products or services that you use for financial transactions. Password generators like LastPass or 1password save your passwords so you don’t need to remember them, but can also generate complex variations that are almost impossible to crack. Using symbols, as well as different cases and numbers make cyber attacking more difficult for a hacker.
Monitor your accounts every day
Quite often we can be blindsided by a cyber attack, especially if someone happens to hack into an account we haven’t used in a long time. It’s important to keep lists of what accounts you’re signed up for, particularly paid ones, as it can be hard to discern payments or details if you’re signed up to a large number of paid subscription services.
If you need to be subscribed to a wide range of services, it’s vital to use different passwords and keep track of what you have signed up for. It’s much easier to get back unauthorised transactions if you’re on top of your accounts and identify any irregularities early.
If your banking details are stolen, always report it to your bank as soon as possible. Many banks will refund your money if there’s evidence to show the transaction wasn’t made by you.
Career opportunities in cybersecurity
With cyber attacks becoming more prevalent, the cybersecurity workforce is growing to employ team members from a variety of fields. By incorporating experience from the law, risk management and communications, cyber security teams have both technical and non-technical skills.
With more specialised programmers and analysts in cybersecurity, fewer cyber attacks will be able to occur. If you’re interested, a Master of Cyber Security from Edith Cowan University can be useful. The two-year accelerated online course provides a flexible upskilling learning environment, designed for those who are wanting to attain the tools to minimise cyber risks.
Learn more about how you can secure the skills needed for this growing industry area by studying the Master of Cyber Security, keeping you competitive and ready for the latest cyber threats.