Rebecca Moonen

Growing up, I tortured my parents with a never-ending, relentless barrage of questions. All. Day. Long.

“Does chewing gum really stay inside you for years?”

“Can germs catch germs?”

"What is the name of the space between the bits that stick out on a comb?"

“Are we there yet?!”

In fact, a 2013 UK study showed that mums are asked more questions per hour than a teacher or a doctor. Four year old girls are the most curious, averaging a dazzling 390 queries each day (that’s one question every two minutes they’re awake, for those frazzled parents playing along at home).

As an adult, I’ve stopped asking questions. Sure, if there’s something I don’t know I’ll Google it on my phone, cue up a podcast to fill the void, or deep dive through Wikipedia, but I never ask out loud anymore.

This year on Safer Internet Day, over 100 countries will unite to raise awareness of the online issues that keep Australians awake at night. And because two heads are better than one, we’re encouraging you to #AskOutLoud when something doesn’t seem quite right.

Be aware of scams 

Online scams and malicious software aren’t always obvious, especially when the fraudsters use trusted brands and logos to look (and smell) like the real deal.

And while we may be getting better at smelling the rats, the fraudsters are about as relentless as the four year old who just keeps asking the questions. Considering that Australians lost a staggering $45 million to fraud in 2015, we’re still getting caught in the trap.

Before taking the bait:

  • #AskOutLoud – it’s always better to get a second opinion. Run the email past your family, or ask a mate. You’ll get the peace of mind that you’ve made the right decision; a problem shared is a problem halved!
  • If you’re getting scammed, it’s possible others are, too. Try using a cut and paste of the exact wording in Google to suss out whether the email you’ve received has been flagged with Scam Watch. Take a look at the website of the company that sent the email – is there any mention of the issue your correspondence refers to?
  • Remember to always type addresses into your browser manually (and never click on a hyperlink in an email) so that you visit the correct page (and not the iffy one)
  • If you’re cornered on the phone and question the legitimacy of the other party, offer to ring them back (obviously using the number on the back of your bank-card or statement, and not the one provided by the caller!)

Set great passwords 

Your password is the guardian of your digital space, unlocking the virtual front door to your online world of banking, shopping, and social networking. And while we all know that a strong password is a good password, the latest statistics confirm that using “password” as a password is apparently still a thing.

Topping the list in 2016 (with a flustering 17% of the 10 million passwords analyzed) was “123456” – the electronic equivalent of locking your front door, but Blu-Tacking the key to the lock.

Before you become another hacking statistic:

  • Shift your thinking from passwords to passphrases. A common phrase that you can remember can be spruced up with some capital letters, spaces, punctuation, and a number thrown in for good measure. Use Edward Snowden’s un-hackable suggestion of “MargaretThatcheris110%SEXY” as your inspiration, but obviously don’t copy it exactly. (You’re welcome!)
  • Switch on Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) for all of your accounts. 2FA provides an extra layer of security by combining something in your head (like a password) with something in your hand (like a text on your mobile). Even if somebody manages to steal your password, they’d need to pinch your phone, too
  • Use different passphrases for different sites, so that if one site is breached then the others aren’t also. We’ve all been guilty of re-using usernames and passwords, and after a breach is publicised it’s common practice for hackers to try the stolen credentials across multiple sites, crossing their fingers for a match
  • Visit Have I been pwned? to check if your email address appears on any data breach lists (think LinkedIn, Target, and the recent Yahoo hack). Retire those passwords immediately and permanently, replacing them with unique passphrases to be safe as houses (sans the Blu-tacked key!)

So if in doubt, shout! Head to Stay Smart Online and join the Twitter conversation to #AskOutLoud during #SID2017

Because your online safety is worth a second opinion.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to ask Mum some questions…

Rebecca Moonen is Senior Security and Privacy Awareness Advisor at nbn. You can read more of her online safety tips here.

Rebecca Moonen

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