Cyber safety: How to protect yourself online

16 October 2014 | Story by Newsroom

Nobody likes having their stuff stolen, especially when the item is an expensive laptop, tablet or smartphone that they use for social networking, online banking, and other information-sensitive tasks. Aside from financial loss and inconvenience, there's also the loss of data and the risk of the thief compromising your online presence, stealing your money, or even conducting criminal activity in your name (if you're a victim of identity theft).

Are you safe? Do you take any measures to protect your devices, data and privacy? Fill out this cyber-security quiz to get an idea of your safety levels.

Crime gets a 21st century upgrade

Cybercrime is a very real threat in today's world, with hi-tech offences costing world economies R5-trillion (R20.3-billion in South Africa) in 2013 alone. These crimes often occur because the victims aren't careful enough with their devices, data or privacy.

To counter these threats, universities and companies around the world observe Cyber Safety Month each October '“ educating their colleagues about the dangers of cybercrime, and advising them on protective measures.

Protect yourself ... now!

Hi-tech devices are so lightweight and portable that thieves see your gadgets as easy targets. But, according to ICTS training and communications team leader Steff Hughes, "You're less likely to be a victim if you're security-conscious, and follow some basic guidelines."

She recommends that you start byprotecting your device using tracking software, noting your hardware details, and remaining aware of your surroundings when you're in public.

Says Hughes, "It's also important to protect your data and privacy, so back up your data regularly, use good passwords, and tighten up your social media privacy settings." She also recommends being cautious about the apps you download, and keeping sensitive information '“ like ID document scans '“ off your mobile device.

What if it still gets stolen?

Criminals can be persistent, and despite your best efforts to stop them, sometimes there's just no way to avoid them. If you ever fall victim to theft, make sure that you act fast to minimise any potential harm that could arise.

First, change all your important passwords immediately '“ online banking, UCT services, email, etc. Next, report the theft to the police and other relevant authorities. You can make their job easier by using the tracking software on your device and giving them the hardware details. Finally, protect your identity by working with the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service and other parties who specialise in this area.

Today's technology offers a world of convenience, but it also brings us new risks that we didn't have to worry about a few decades ago. So, while we enjoy using our gadgets to access vast resources on the internet, let's remember to protect ourselves and remain cyber-safe at all times.

Story by Yacoob Manjoo. Image supplied.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Please view the republishing articles page for more information.