HIDDEN DANGER: One in five Australians reportedly fall victim to hackers and scammers each year.
HIDDEN DANGER: One in five Australians reportedly fall victim to hackers and scammers each year. Thinkstock

POLL: Beware: No one immune to cyber attack

YOU wouldn't leave your car, wallet or home unsecured or at risk of being stolen, but what about your online identity, websites and passwords?

Cyber security experts are warning Southern Downs residents to change their online behaviours or risk falling victim to the growing number of hackers targeting local businesses and residents.

With a reported one-in-five Australians falling victim to cyber crime at a cost of more than $1 billion each year, the need for better awareness of cyber security is great, experts say.

According to Dr Sally Ernst from the Australian Cyber Security Network, cyber security is all about "stranger danger", and what that means online.

"Hackers can be very clever imitating companies and people we trust," she said.

"The good news is, much of the solution is behavioural.

"We need to stop and think how to double-check information and requests we receive."

Dr Ernst and her team spoke at a cyber security seminar in Warwick last month, educating local businesses and community representatives about the dangers of cyber crime.

Highlighting community isolation is a big factor in cyber crime - the security expert spoke of the need to work together to tackle the issue.

"Hackers are collaborating against us," she said.

"Getting collaboration on the business community side is critical."

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Having faced a threat of more than 1000 attempted attacks on his website each day, Toowoomba businessman Shane Ridley knows all too well the dangers of hackers.

Mr Ridley, the managing director of an online training site called O-Train, said his business had fallen victim to hackers multiple times.

"We were putting ourselves at risk and we weren't managing those risks," he said.

"One of the things we learnt about hackers is they have robots the same as Google that run around the internet looking for unsecured doors.

"It was a real eye-opener for us."

While Mr Ridley has tackled the problem and changed his business's online behaviours, there are many businesses still putting themselves at risk online.

Police are also issuing a strong warning about cyber security to businesses following a serious hacking and ransom attack on an international company based in Brisbane in recent months.

Earlier this year, the organisation's computer system was hacked and data pertaining to sensitive operations involving the company and their business was stolen.

State Crime Command Acting Assistant Commissioner Brian Hay described the attack as "very serious" and "quite traumatic".

"We are strongly urging business to ensure their computer systems are secure and protected from hackers, that they adopt a policy of not paying ransom demands and carefully consider the information posted on social media," he said.

"Organisations need to think about putting in place a strategy to counteract or respond to these types of incidents.

"But the one message that I cannot stress enough is to never comply with extortion demands and report these matters to us immediately."

It's not just businesses facing cyber crime, with figures also showing Australians lost $7 million each month in online romance fraud.

Dr Ernst said the statistics showed nobody was immune to cyber criminals.

"What we need to do with the community is to get people to use the internet in a more secure way - we need to be wary," she said.

"Online, we are all interconnected.

"One company or individual in a single location in Australia, even in the outback, can impact many people nationally.

"We need to understand what is happening and work together to address it."

Dr Ernst will present another cyber security seminar at the end of the month in Warwick.

For more information on cyber security, visit www.csns.co.

If you suspect you're the victim of a cyber crime, phone Policelink on 131 444.

Protecting yourself

  • Think twice when a webpage or an email doesn't 'feel right'.
  • Don't click on links and attachments, go directly to the website or account without clicking on anything.
  • Instead of wiring money from an email or posted letter request, call the trusted person or organisation directly on trusted numbers and check it really was them.

HAVE you been the victim of a cyber crime or hacking?

Share your story with us by phoning 4660 1364.


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