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Tips to stay cyber safe this holiday season

08:00am December 13 2023

Heading overseas for the holidays? It's worth taking some time to prepare in advance to ensure you can use your devices safely abroad. (Getty)

The holiday season is almost upon us and Westpac’s cyber security team share some tips on how to stay safe online when posting updates to friends and family on social media or when travelling overseas. 

Tech gifts

On Christmas morning there’s a good chance your child will be gleefully unwrapping a gaming console, smart watch, even a drone. These gifts can provide hours of entertainment, but it’s worth remembering that any item that you connect to the internet can pose a danger if not set up properly or used securely. 

It pays to be aware of what personal information you might be inadvertently communicating when using these devices. Protect yourself by using strong passwords, switching devices off when not using them, and making sure privacy settings are set to the maximum level. 

The government’s eSafety Commissioner website has lots more information and tips on how to enjoy tech gifts safely. 

Sharing on social media 

- Only connect with people you know on social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn and double-check who you are talking to before sharing personal information.

- Think before sharing: are you giving away too much information, such as your birthdate, home address, or bank details? Check your privacy settings to make sure your posts are only seen by people you know. 

- Keep the hackers at bay by creating strong passwords, using two-factor authentication and update your software regularly. 

- Be wary of doing quizzes and questionnaires on social media – many of them are designed to collect personal data or help scammers work out your password or answers to security questions. 

Travelling overseas 

- Before you travel: If you’re a Westpac customer, check you are registered to receive your Security Codes and Tokens through your banking app to avoid having to receive an SMS whilst you’re abroad. This can be done by going to “Settings” in the app, and checking the “SMS code and token” section and setting to “Active” if not already. Another great tip is to let your bank know you are heading overseas.  

- Make sure all your devices are updated with the latest software to ensure they are as secure as possible, and only take devices and documents that you really need with you.  

- If you can, turn on international roaming on your phone before you leave and check with your provider on safe connection options at your destination. 

- At the airport: Never put your electronic devices (including laptops, smartphones, tablets or multi-factor authentication tokens) in your checked-in baggage. 

- Turn off your devices when going though airport security checkpoints.  

- At security checkpoints you may be asked to surrender your devices (including providing the password to unlock it). Be aware of the law of each country you’re visiting.  

- When travelling, always lock your devices with a passcode and keep them close. 

- Don’t connect to unsecure Wi-Fi, for example in a hotel, café, or airport , and disable auto-connect for both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. 

- Disable or otherwise limit device-to-device sharing such as AirDrop on iOS or Nearby Share on Android 

- Never charge your device at a public charging station or USB charging outlet – only use genuine chargers supplied with your device.  

- Be alert for phishing. Be wary of instructions asking you to click on a link, pop-up or an attachment. Treat with caution any requests for sensitive personal or financial information.

James Thornhill was appointed as editor of Westpac Wire in May 2022. Prior to joining the bank, he was a business and financial journalist with more than two decades of experience with international newswires. Most recently, he was a resources correspondent for Bloomberg, covering the mining and energy sectors, and previously reported on a broad range of topics from economics and politics to currency and bond markets. Originally from the UK, he’s had stints working in London, New York and Singapore, but is now happily settled in Sydney.

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