Online safety

Take control of your cyber security and reduce the impact of an attack by learning how to protect yourself online and reduce your chances of being targeted.

Five steps to protect your personal information

Step 1

Look out for email scams (phishing)

Phishing emails attempt to trick you into supplying personal information (e.g. usernames, passwords, personal and credit card details) by appearing to be from a legitimate business, organisation or individuals.

For example, an email could say you will lose access or have an account closed unless you update your password and provide a link to make the password change. The link provided within the phishing email will direct you to a fake website that looks real, but it is controlled by cyber criminals who will capture your password or other personal information you type in.

You can protect yourself against phishing emails in various ways.

Check the sender’s address

Any correspondence from an organisation should come from an organisational e-mail address. If you take the time to examine the sender email address, you may find that it contains a variation which is intended to deceive (e.g. instead of

Do not immediately click on links

Take the time to examine links before clicking on them. If you have reason to believe the email is not legitimate, don't trust the links in it either. Links tend to lead to phishing sites designed to steal your username and password.

Watch out for poor spelling and/or grammar

When an email from an organisation is received containing misspelled words or bad grammar, this is a sign that the email did not come from a legitimate source.

Confirm the sender's identity

If a sender’s email address appears to be valid but the message is unusual or asks you to do something you would not normally do, confirm that the sender is who they claim to be. This could be a phone call to substantiate the request.

If you find that you've been tricked by a phishing email, immediately change your university password. If you used the same password for multiple accounts, make sure you change the password for each account and never use that password in the future.

Passwords and PINs are only to be used by an authorised user and must not be:

  1. shared with anyone under any circumstances, or
  2. written down or recorded in physical or clear text electronic format.

For tips on how to spot a phishing email, visit StaySmartOnline – Phishing

Step 2

Maintain your device security

Keeping your operating system/applications up to date and having antivirus software installed are two of the best ways to protect your device from cyber criminals.

Cyber criminals seek out vulnerabilities in software to exploit and obtain access your device. In most cases, software providers are aware of these vulnerabilities and have released updates to remove these and keep the software secure.

Updating your software

While software and applications update automatically on modern devices, you still need to check this regularly. The most important types of software to keep up to date are:

  • Operating systems (Windows, Mac OS, etc.)
  • Web browsers (Firefox, Chrome, etc.)
  • Antivirus software (Sophos, etc.)
Step 3

Be conscious of malware

Malware installed on your device is used by cyber criminals in malicious ways, such as stealing your confidential information, holding your computer to ransom or installing other programs without your knowledge. To help protect yourself from malware, it is recommended you have antivirus software installed.

Visit Stay Smart Online for more information regarding device security and malware.

Step 4

Create strong passwords/passphrases

Passwords/passphrases protect access to your sensitive information and services. If they become compromised, cyber criminals can access your online accounts for malicious purposes.

One way to help protect yourself is to use strong passwords/passphrases. The general rule is: the longer it is, the stronger it is.

A helpful tip is to use a passphrase or sentence that is meaningful to you – this makes it easier for you to remember but harder for someone else to guess.

Password examples

Some examples of good passwords include:

  • ilikemyluckyNumber#86
  • Hmcgt2s! (Hope my car gets through 2 semesters!)
  • Correcth0rsebattery$taple
  • Australiansallletusringjoyce!

For more tips on creating strong passwords visit Stay Smart Online – Passwords and passphrases

Extra security

It is also highly recommend to use multi-factor authentication on all of your accounts when it is available. Multi-factor authentication means you are asked to provide more than just your password to access your account. This can include receiving a code to your mobile phone or answering additional questions.

Popular email providers (e.g. Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail) allow for the use of multi-factor authentication to help keep your email account safe from cyber criminals.

Step 5

Backup regularly

Software failure, physical damage, malware infection and theft are some of reasons why you should back up your data.

The most important files to backup are your personal files (you can always reinstall your operating system and software from other sources). Your own personal data typically only exists locally on a device and cannot be replaced if lost.

To backup files you can use a number of different methods including external hard drives or cloud services. No matter which way you choose to back up your files, it is good practice to:

  • Backup up often
  • Make sure the backup is secure
  • Occasionally test the backups to make sure they're able to be restored

For more information, visit Stay Smart Online - Backups