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Tips to help protect your online accounts

Community Manager Community Manager
Community Manager

It’s important to remember: This article aims to provide advice on ways you can help keep your details and accounts secure online. No cyber security advice is foolproof, and you should consider if these tips are right for you before proceeding. Telstra takes no responsibility for the effectiveness of these security measures, and is not responsible for services provided by third party vendors. Telstra is not affiliated with any of the third party apps or vendors mentioned in this article.

 

Having multiple online accounts and profiles has become commonplace; so much so that you might have lost count of just how many you have. Take a moment to think about every long-forgotten social media profile, email account, online store and service you’ve created an account for – many you might still use, and many you probably don’t.

 

Every one of these accounts uses an element of your personal details to develop a login – whether it’s a name, email address or mobile number. It’s important to keep your accounts safe with a secure login, in turn helping to keep your personal details safe too.

 

Unfortunately there’s no failsafe way to completely protect your details online, but there are some precautionary steps you can take to help keep your online accounts safe and secure.

 

Create unique, complex passwords

A secure account starts with a secure password. When setting up any online account – whether it’s social media, online banking or an email account – it’s important to use a password that isn’t easy to guess. Use a long password with a mixture of lower and uppercase letters, as well as numbers and special characters if you can. Avoid words, phrases and dates which could be easily guessed, such as names, birthdays or simple letter/number sequences.

 

Many sites make it compulsory to use this kind of complex password, and while it can seem irritating, it’s an important way to keep your accounts secure.

 

A series of random words linked with simple punctuation is a great option. An attacker won’t have any idea where to begin attacking such a password. Something to keep in mind is ‘entropy’ – which is, for passwords, mostly a function of the total number of characters and the variation between those characters. So for example, 15 letter ‘a’ in a row isn’t the best choice, but, ‘Tiramisu-tastes-great-after-midnight!’ is fantastic. 


Use a secure password manager

Remembering numerous different, complex passwords can become difficult. A secure password manager like 1Password, LastPass or Dashlane is an ideal way to keep your passwords safe (and save you from remembering them all). Many of these managers, such as 1Password, also offer early warning features if any of your accounts may be at risk.

 

It’s very important though to do some research before choosing a password manager. You’ll be storing some pretty important information with it, so make sure it’s reliable, secure and has extensive positive reviews and history.

 

Be cautious when using public networks

Avoid selecting ‘Remember Me’ on a public/shared computer or device which isn’t your own, and always log out from these devices when finished. Where possible, avoid using public/shared devices or public Wi-Fi to log into secure accounts like online banking. If you’re using a shared computer, it’s also good advice to fully ‘quit’ any application such as web browsers to ensure they are no longer running.

 

Use different passwords

Avoid using the same login details across multiple sites and accounts. If one of the sites is compromised, there’s a chance your other accounts which use the same login could be at risk also.

 

Two Factor Authentication

Two Factor Authentication is where you receive a code via a secondary method to verify your identity when logging into an account. This means that your account can’t be accessed without the secondary device or method, which significantly reduces the risk of unauthorised access. It also means that if someone does try to login to your account, you’ll receive a notification of the attempt, and can immediately take action to change your login details.

 

Many websites, including social media and email providers, allow you to set up Two Factor Authentication within your account settings, often using an SMS based code.

 

Some online services, such as banking apps, use time-based rotating codes which can be programmed into a specific mobile phone. These codes changes every 30 seconds or so, and even if you lose mobile service, you can still securely authenticate. This is often referred to as TOTP (Time-based One Time Password). Authy and Google Authenticator are well known versions of this, and some password managers also support this technology.

 

Set social media accounts to private

If your Facebook, Instagram or other social media account is set to ‘public’, you could be sharing your personal information with people you don’t know. If you often use simple passwords such as your name or birthday, this information could be publicly available on your social accounts, making it easy for someone to guess.

 

Keep your mobile device secure

Setting up a passcode, pattern lock, facial ID or fingerprint security on your mobile device will help keep your logged in accounts safe, especially if your phone is misplaced, lost or stolen. Make numeric passcodes at least 6-8 digits, and avoid simple sequences like 0000 or 1234. If choosing a pattern lock, make sure it is intricate, rather than a simple shape or line.

 

If your device offers a ‘Find My Phone’ feature, utilise this in the case it is lost or stolen. This will allow you to wipe your phone should you be concerned about your information coming into the wrong hands, and to prevent services being abused (like expensive phone calls you may be responsible for).


Delete old accounts

Many of us don’t think twice when signing up to a new website – especially if there are perks involved – but do you know how many online profiles and accounts you really have?

If you have accounts you’ve forgotten about, chances are you aren’t keeping these secure or monitoring account activity. Deleting accounts you no longer use can help you keep track of your online presence.

 

Be careful of what you share

Keeping your information safe online starts with thinking about what you share. Think about the kind of details you share online, including when making accounts. If you aren’t sure about the security of a website or service, proceed with caution, and always think twice before sharing your information with unverified third parties.

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