Cybersecurity tips for safer online banking and shopping

By Olivia Gee ·

As COVID-19 continues to dominate the social and economic landscape of 2020, virtual experiences and transactions are becoming more popular and often essential.

Financial institutions have seen a sharp rise in online banking, while growth in online shopping platforms and digital payment methods shows no sign of slowing. 

But with this rise in digitised spending, scams and other fraudulent activities have also increased. 

Cyber Security Awareness Month

October is recognised nationally as Cyber Security Awareness Month, and with the second month of spring fast approach, it could be an ideal time to reassess your online safeguards.  

Advocate for KnowBe4 – a security awareness training organisation – Jacqueline Jayne has urged Aussies to be vigilant when it comes to any online activity, especially sharing financial information.

“Our interactions online have increased tenfold in 2020 thanks in part to COVID-19, which means the risk of falling victim to a cyberattack has similarly increased,” she said. 

“Staying safe online can at times seem too hard, and we [often] believe it won't happen to us. But it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when.” 

Jayne’s top tips for identifying scams include:

  • looking out for anything which suggests great urgency or asks you to click on a link
  • not engaging with emails where you don’t recognise the source
  • carefully assessing or otherwise ignoring unsolicited social media invitations
  • reviewing security and privacy settings across all apps and social media accounts

Tips for shopping safely online 

Whether you’re looking to avoid hidden international transaction fees or outsmart scammers, there’s plenty you can do to beef-up your security when shopping online. Here are our top five tips:

Stick to well-known sellers.
A little research goes a long way. If you’re buying from a brand or provider you haven’t heard of before, cross-check their information with other sources like social media or customer reviews and make sure you read their privacy policy. This goes for apps too. 

If you know the company well, still analyse things like the URL, branding and contact details to make sure it isn’t a fake (reputable websites will start with a ‘https’). Best practice for this is to search for the site in a browser, rather than clicking a link from somewhere like an email or SMS.  

Pay securely.
If a website or seller is asking you to do things like make a direct bank transfer, share bank details via email, or pay in crypto currency, that’s a red flag. Established payment methods like PayPal, Bpay or your credit card are your safest bet.

Update your software.
It’s time to finally take action on that nudge to update your computer or phone software. Software and system updates are often released to help combat security issues or freshly developed cyberattacks.

Avoid public WiFi.
If you’ve depleted your data, resist the urge to jump onto an unlocked WiFi network. These unsecured connections are breeding grounds for scams. If you’re in a tight spot and urgently need to get online, just make sure you’re logged out of any banking apps, online shopping portals and other payment platforms first.

Keep those passwords fresh
. Even if you’re into double digitals with passwords at this point, it pays to keep them updated and original. And yes, as all the internet hotshots have been saying for decades, varied passwords for different accounts are your best friends when it comes to cyber security.

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Olivia Gee
Money writer

As a personal finance writer at Mozo, Olivia investigates insurance, banking and property. After completing a double degree in journalism and media and communications, Olivia became a lifestyle editor at Time Out Sydney and freelanced for notable publications such as Guardian Australia and SBS News. Now she is Mozo’s resident car insurance enthusiast, and is certified (ASIC RG146 Tier 2) to provide general advice in general insurance. She also creates audible finance adventures as co-host of Mozo’s podcast, The Finance Burrito.