Paul Clitheroe | Beefing up your online security

Truly, I despair. Despite all the publicity about internet scams, I read this week that “123456” is still the most popular password. Why not just put your money in a bag at the front door with “take me” written on it?

We are increasingly managing our money online, using personal data to complete digital transactions. With Privacy Awareness Week (May 15-19) now’s the time to consider how well you’re protecting your personal information. 

Almost one in ten of us experience misuse of our personal information each year, and 5% of people annually lose money as a result of identity crime. 

A report by the Attorney General’s office found Australian identities sell for surprisingly little on illegal online marketplaces. A bank login and password is worth around $500; credit card details about $1,000. These low prices reflect the ready availability of this type of highly personal information.

Cyber crooks typically get hold of personal details by hacking our computers or via email, social media or scams. So an important first step is to have the latest security software installed on all your digital devices. When you’re setting passwords, make them strong. Use a mix of numbers, letters (upper and lower case) and special characters like # or $. 

Set unique passwords for all your accounts. Yes, it’s a hassle remembering them, but it’s a lot easier than fixing up the mess after cyber criminals have enjoyed an online shopping spree using your credit card. And reject offers by websites to remember your password. Login afresh each time.

Paul Clitheroe is a founding director of financial planning firm ipac, Chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money Magazine.