Protecting your devices

Approximately 87 per cent of Australians use the internet daily. This means, there are a whole lot of us who need to be aware of what information we are giving out online and the website we are buying from.

Protecting your all your devices, including your mobile phone, tablets and home computers are ways you can protect your information.

This section looks at some practical steps you can take to protect your devices, including:

  • wireless networks
  • computers
  • mobiles
  • tablets

We put together a cyber security message with the Matilda’s! Have a look for a few tips to keep your information secure.

Protecting your devices - wireless

What is a wireless network?

To put it simply, a wireless network allows you to connect to the internet without cables.

A lot of internet services operate wirelessly, with secured and unsecured networks available at home, school, work and public spaces. It makes the internet accessible nearly everywhere you go.

Connecting to a wireless network or ‘Wi-Fi’ can be really convenient and save your data, but there are some risks you need to be aware of before you connect.

Public Wi-Fi often asks you to agree to terms of use and provide an email address before connecting.

Make sure you’re aware of read these and understand how the owner of the network will use your email address and any other personal information you provide.

Tips for using public Wi-Fi

When using public Wi-Fi, you need to ensure that you keep your private information safe.

Did you know that anyone in your vicinity can monitor the information passing between your device and the network if your connection is not encrypted?

Here’s some tips to help keep your information safe:

  • Make sure the website you are using is secure – it should start with ‘https’
  • Avoid file sharing
  • Avoid making financial transactions, including anything which may require you to enter banking details such as online shopping
  • Keep your software up to date, including your anti-virus and operating system
  • Avoid downloading ‘updates’ and verify any software before downloading
  • Make sure you log off and ‘forget’ the network once you’re done.

Tips for using Wi-Fi at home

If you’ve got a wireless network at home, it is essential to secure your network to prevent others from accessing your saved files and information, or even using up your data and slowing your connection.

Did you know that your personal information and files on your wireless network can sometimes be seen by people who pick up your network signal? This can lead to identity theft.

The default settings for wireless networks generally aren’t the safest, so you will need to proactively make changes to the control settings.

The settings will vary depending on the brand and model of your router, however you should be able to set a secure password to your wireless network through this.

To find out how to do this, refer to the router user manual or do an online search for your router model.

Tips to secure your wireless network

  • Use encryption - Encryption protects the communications between your router and the devices connected to it by scrambling the data to make it unreadable. Unfortunately, most wireless routers have encryption turned off as the default, so take the time to activate it.
  • Change the default password - When you purchase your router, it will have a default password already set up. You should change this password as it can be identified by others fairly easily. This can be done by accessing the control settings of your router, or refer to the user guide.
    Check out our passwords section for tips on how to set a strong password.
  • Change the name of your wireless service - most wireless routers will automatically transmit their network name (known as a SSID) to others in the nearby area. You can choose to disable this so that people cannot see that your wireless is active. This can be done by signing onto your router administrator and changing the setting to ‘off’. If you choose to leave it on, so that people who visit your home can connect to it, make sure you change the name or your wireless service to something which doesn’t reveal your personal information.

Additional technical steps can be taken to protect your wireless network, such as filtering options to stop unknown devices form connecting, activating a firewall, or turning off your wireless network when not in use. If you’re not sure what suits your situation best, speak to someone with the technical know-how.

Protecting your devices – computers, laptops and mobiles

There are a number of practical ways you can protect your computer and the information you store on there about you and your family. 

Update your operating system

It is important to keep your operating system up to date so that you are protected from vulnerabilities as they are identified. These updates also allow your computer to run new features to improve performance.

Most operating systems allow you the option of turning on automatic updates. This will assist you in ensuring that your computer has the most recent operating system updates installed and saves you the time and effort of manually checking for updates and installing them on your computer.

If you’re not sure how to update your operating system, refer to your device’s user guide online.

Install malware protection and anti-virus software

Malicious software, or ‘malware’, is a common risk when using the internet. Malware includes viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware and adware. These can not only impact how your computer operates, but can also be used to steal your personal information or even allow your computer to be remotely controlled by other users without your knowledge and used for illegal purposes.

Malware can be spread in a variety of different ways - through links or attachments in emails, by clicking on pop-ups or even by visiting infected websites.  It might also be spread by using a portable storage device in your computer or laptop which is infected.

ThinkUKnow’s top tips

There are some simple ways you can protect your computer from malware and viruses.

Don’t forget that your mobile device needs just as much attention as your desktop computer or laptop. With the use of apps, banking, social networking and other personal accounts on your mobile device, you need to make sure your device is as secure as possible.

Make sure you follow the below tips for your all your devices: 

  1. Install and maintain anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
    This software works by searching files to identify known viruses and also investigating suspicious behavior by computer programs. It needs to be regularly to ensure it is able to identify any new malware threats as these are constantly evolving.  Anti-virus and anti-spyware software can be purchased from your local computer store, from online retailers, or you can use free products which can be downloaded from various providers. 
  2. Do not use the internet when signed in as an administrator on your computer. Most operating systems allow you to create user accounts with varying levels of access and privileges such as installing programs or performing other administrative tasks. When using your computer, particularly when connected to the internet, it is best to use an account with limited privileges as this way the malware reduced access to the files on your computer if it gets infected.
  3. Do not open emails from people you do not know and are not expecting.
    Malware may be distributed via email so exercise some caution when opening emails. If you receive an email from someone you do not know or it appears suspicious, delete is without opening it as it may contain malware. When you receive an email from someone you do know, look at the subject of the email and consider if it is likely to be something they would have sent to you. Some malware may appear to come from a person you know. If you are suspicious, delete the email and contact them directly to confirm they sent it.
  4. Do not click on a link in an email. It is strongly recommended you type website address into your browser rather than click on a direct link provided in an email. Links can redirect you to fake websites which involve scams or download malware onto your system. Another way to test if a link is legitimate is to hover over the link and check that the website address matches what you’d expect it to be.
  5. Use spam filters. These are available from most email account providers and can block spam before it enters your inbox.