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Google exposes how 6.6 million Australians are being hacked

·3-min read
(Source: Getty)
(Source: Getty)

Google has raised the alarm on poor online security habits that are leaving Australians exposed to hackers.

One in three Australians, or the equivalent of 6.6 million people, have been shocked to discover their password has been hacked or compromised, new research from the tech giant reveals.

And it’s estimated one in four, or more than 5 million Australians, have fallen victim to phishing scams, where they are tricked into handing over personal, sensitive or banking information.

The research comes as Aussies get swamped with scams left, right and centre as online criminals pounce on the popularity of online shopping, rising interest in cryptocurrency, as well as tax season.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ASCS)’s latest annual report revealed that a cybercrime report was being made every eight minutes in the 2021 financial year.

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Google’s research shows Australians’ online security hygiene could do with some brushing up: 14 per cent of us have shared passwords with friends or family members, while 6 per cent of us admit to texting or emailing their password to someone.

Meanwhile, half of us don’t seem to care whether the websites we’re visiting are secure or not, with 47 per cent of us not looking out for the little ‘lock’ icon which indicates whether a website is secure or not while online shopping.

In fact, one in three of us (31 per cent) don’t even know what the ‘secure’ symbol means.

But often we just don’t really know what to do about it: more than a third of Australians (37 per cent) say they don’t take steps to protect themselves online because they simply don’t know where to start.

It looks like women are more vulnerable online, too; 43 per cent of women said they wouldn’t know what steps to take to protect themselves online, compared to 29 per cent of men.

Google Australia’s Samantha Yorke said she was surprised at just how many Australians have fallen victim to scams, despite the rising volume of warnings from businesses and institutions.

“This data shows how frequently individuals have been caught in scams,” she said.

“Hacking of passwords is an ever-present threat and phishing scams are becoming more sophisticated.”

ANKARA, TURKEY - AUGUST 5: In this photo illustration Google logo is seen both on a smart phone and a pc screen in Ankara, Turkey on August 5, 2021. (Photo by Ali Balikci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Google is warning Australians to be better at protecting themselves online. (Photo by Ali Balikci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Google’s five tips to protect your password

Before we get into Google’s tips, there are a few rules of thumb that you should always follow in order to prevent cunning online criminals from stealing your information.

Always check if the sender’s email address is real and legitimate, first of all. Always hesitate before handing over your banking details to pay for anything, especially if you’re being threatened with arrest.

And if you’re asked to pay in unconventional ways, like in gift cards, Bitcoin or cold hard cash, it’s almost definitely a scam.

Without further ado, here are Google’s tips for a strong password:

  1. Use a password manager tool, and create a “strong, unique password” for each different account

  2. Use two-step verification

  3. Make sure website connections are sure

  4. Before clicking on suspicious URLs or links, hover over it to check out whether it’s legitimate and begins with ‘https’

  5. Double-check a file for viruses before you download it

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