Penny pinching and convenience are more important to Australians than protecting their personal data online

Despite an awareness amongst Australians of the threats to their personal data that are lurking online, many are risking exposure to cybercrime due to an unwillingness to pay for essential protection measures or because of the inconvenience of ensuring their connection is secured.

A hesitance to spend money and sense of apathy are causing Australians to place themselves in harm’s way when it comes to online threats. While Aussies have a healthy awareness around the importance of protecting their privacy online, they show a distinct lack of vigilance as soon as it starts to cost them time or money.

According to Norton Australia’s Project 360 Data Report, while 93 per cent of Australians agree that online privacy is important to them, only one in four (28 per cent) uses a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Avoiding this modest expense leaves them vulnerable to cyber criminals seeking access to the data being sent to and from their devices and can act as a welcome mat for malware.

With cyber criminals growing increasingly sophisticated in their attacks, Australians are more at risk than ever before. Unfortunately, Aussies’ increasing awareness around cybercrime often does not translate into meaningful action.

While 83 per cent of Aussies agree they are concerned about the level of privacy they have when online, they maintain a nonchalant approach to protecting themselves. For example, while more than half of Australians (55 per cent) do not believe their information will be safe while using a public Wi-Fi network, almost the same figure (53 per cent) would risk using public Wi-Fi to avoid additional charges on their phone bill. This is troubling, as the risks associated with using public Wi-Fi networks can be immense – attackers will often create fake Wi-Fi hotspots purporting to be legitimate networks to catch unsuspecting users – and far outweigh the benefit of a few dollars saved on a phone bill.

More alarmingly, almost half of Australians (44 per cent) confess they would risk their personal data being compromised by connecting to public Wi-Fi if it was more convenient than finding a secured connection. This is particularly true of the younger generations’ digital natives, who are so at home in the online world that they can be unwilling to take potential risks seriously, with 56 per cent of Gen Z and 53 per cent of Millennials willing to risk compromising their personal data to access public Wi-Fi, compared with just 36 per cent of Boomers and 38 per cent of Gen X.

Overall, 74 per cent of Australians have connected to a public Wi-Fi network at some point, and younger generations are again most at risk, with 83 per cent of Gen Z and Millennials having connected to public Wi-Fi, compared with just 68 per cent of those aged over 40.

Fortunately, there are some easy measures Australians can employ to reduce their vulnerability to cybercrime via Wi-Fi and other threats. Below are best practices Australians can follow to help protect themselves online:

  • Make use of a VPN on public Wi-Fi: Many public Wi-Fi connections are unencrypted. This could give cyber criminals a chance to snoop on data being sent and received by your device. If there are software vulnerabilities on your device, attackers can inject malware to help them gain access to your data. In some cases, attackers create fake Wi-Fi hotspots purporting to be legitimate networks.
  • Safeguard yourself: To help protect your devices and information from the latest online threats, use a robust multi-platform security solution, such as Norton Security Premium, and update it regularly.
  • Never open suspicious-looking emails: Cybercriminals send fake emails or texts that may look legitimate. The links in these emails or texts contain malicious software that can download malware and spyware. The software may be able to mine your computer for personal information, which is then sent to a remote computer where the attacker could sell the information on the dark web or use the information to commit identity theft.
  • Own your online presence: Carefully read the terms and conditions before opening an account or downloading an application, including social media accounts. Be sure to set the privacy and security settings on web services and devices to your comfort level for information sharing. 
  • Get two steps ahead and manage your passwords: Switch on two-step verification or multi-factor authentication wherever offered to prevent unauthorised access to your online accounts. Always change the default passwords to something strong and unique on your devices, services, and Wi-Fi networks. Tools such as Norton Password Manager can help manage passwords, login information, addresses, and credit card details securely.
  • Educate your child about online safety: Don’t just tell them to be careful online, show them how. Spend time with your child online and guide them through how to have a positive relationship with technology.
  • Be cautious of over-sharing your child’s life on social media: You are creating your child’s digital identity. Ensure your social media posts present your child in a positive way.

To learn more about the real impact of cybercrime and how consumers can protect their privacy, identity, and digital information, visit here

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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