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Keep your information safe online

Most of us are keeping more of our personal information on electronic devices and in online accounts. To help keep your personal information safe, there are some things you can do.

Use built-in PIN and password features

  • Set up a PIN, password, pattern, fingerprint or face unlock on your phone, tablet or computer. If your device ever goes missing, it will be much harder for someone to access your information.
  • Many smartphones and tablets can also remotely locate, lock or wipe your information if they go missing. You need to have this feature set up in advance. It’s a good idea to set it up now, so it’s there if you ever need it.

Choose secure passwords

  • Choose a different password for each online account and device you have. Make sure they're passwords you've never used before.
  • Use a passphrase for your passwords: several words that contain numbers, symbols, upper and lower-case letters.
  • Manage your passwords all in one place with an online password manager. CERT NZ has some great advice on choosing one
  • It's also good to base your security questions on information that can't be found on social media or online.

Back up the important things

  • You could lose your photos and other information in a cyber attack or, by losing or breaking your device.
  • It’s good to have a back-up of photos, documents and messages with either hard copies, an external hard drive or a cloud-based server. 

Always run your updates

  • Software updates don’t just give you new features, they also fix security vulnerabilities.
  • Your operating system, apps, internet browser or antivirus software will tell you there are updates ready.
  • Install updates as soon as possible.

Use anti-virus software and a firewall

Antivirus software and a firewall can help protect your computer. There are stacks of great options, like Trend Micro Maximum Security or McAfee.

Check apps before installing them

Only install mobile applications from the App Store or Google Play Store. Before downloading an app, check:

  • Have you heard of the company or application before?
  • When was the app last updated? If an app is regularly updated, it’ll be better protected.
  • Reviews of the app on the App Store or Google Play Store.
  • The Ts&Cs, privacy policy and any privacy labels for the app. For example, some apps may collect and sell your data because that’s their business model. Others may show you ads. It’s a good idea to know what you’re signing up for.

Check app permissions    

  • For apps to work, they often need to access part of your phone. For example, Instagram needs access to your phone's camera before you can use it to take photos. 
  • Be wary of apps that ask for access they don’t need. For example, if a weather application asks to use your microphone, ask yourself why. A good weather app should have no reason to use your phone's camera, but it may need your location to give you local weather information. 

Keep an eye out for unusual activity

  • If your account is compromised, it may not be obvious right away. So it pays to be on the alert for unusual activity, such as settings changes or password requests that you didn’t make.
  • If your device’s battery is draining fast or you’re suddenly chewing through more data, check your device settings. You may have apps or something else running in the background.

Be careful what you share online

  • Be cautious about giving out your personal information over the internet.
  • Don't give out your full name online.
  • Check the security policies and legitimacy of online shopping websites before you use them.
  • Be wary of unusual requests for information, even when they appear to come from people you know. Sometimes fraudsters gain access to peoples’ accounts so they can find out information about other people. 

Be careful what you download and open

  • Links and attachments sent over email or apps can contain viruses or lead you to unsecure websites. It’s best not to click on or open anything you weren’t expecting.
  • If a stranger or someone claiming to be from a trusted organisation calls you without notice and asks you to download software or go to a website, hang up immediately.

Be careful on free, public or insecure WiFi connections

Your personal information, like emails or login credentials, can be intercepted over WiFi. So it’s a good idea to avoid online accounts or places containing your personal information while you’re on an open WiFi connection.

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