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Running a business

Think you are at risk of a data leak? Here’s what you need to do to

You would have been following the unprecedented data leak affecting more than 9 million people in Australia, as a result of a sophisticated cyber attack. People’s confidential information has been exposed, namely their names, dates of birth, phone numbers, email addresses, driver licences and passport numbers.

This raises alarm bells that it is critical for businesses to safeguard their confidential information. 

Cyber attacks have become more prevalent in recent years with the advent of technology. In fact, Australians have lost over $300 million to scams in 2021 alone. For small businesses, this means that they have to be vigilant in the face of potential cyber attacks and have the right safeguards in place to protect themselves. 

Here are four ways you can protect yourself and your business against potential cyber attacks:

1. Protect your account with multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a cyber security measure that requires the user to approve multiple factors to validate their identity before being granted access to a system. 

Businesses and individuals are encouraged to adopt multiple factor authentication to detract cyber criminals from hacking into their database. Multi-factor authentication can take the form of:

  • A password
  • A fingerprint or other biometric 
  • A card
  • An authentication app
  • Email
  • SMS

According to research conducted by Microsoft, multi-factor authentication can prevent 99.9 percent of account compromise threats. This means that even if cyber criminals obtain your password, they will still need to know the other proofs of identity such as your email address or access to the authentication app that you’ve registered to your account, to gain access.

2. Apply for a credit ban to prevent criminals from accessing credit in your name

A credit ban will freeze your file for 21 days and will prevent credit reporting agencies (CRAs) from sharing your consumer credit file to any credit providers unless you provide written consent or are required by law to do so. While a ban prevents other people from accessing your file, you’ll still be able to order a copy of your credit report any time. 

A ban on your credit file will also not affect your credit line and you will still have access to your credit cards and be able to make any repayments to existing loans. Any organisation that requests your credit report during a ban, will usually be told that there is a ban in place so they are aware of the potential fraud risk on your account. 

You can apply for a credit ban through the following agencies:

  • Equifax: Go to ‘Placing a ban’ with Equifax and fill in and submit the form. Once submitted, Equifax will send you an email confirming that the ban is active.
  • illion: Go to ‘Placing a ban’ with illion and fill in and submit the form. Once submitted, illion will send you an email confirming that the ban is active.
  • Experian: Request a ban on the Experian website.
  • A ban can be extended beyond 21 days, provided that you give evidence that you are at risk of becoming a victim of fraud. Check out www.cyber.gov.au to find out more. 

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3. Beware of phishing attempts

Have you ever received a suspicious message asking you to click on a link and follow prompts? In many cases, this is a hacker’s attempt to get you to click on a fraudulent link and steal your confidential information. A cyber attack that has been identified and shared with the public through the media can sometimes have an adverse effect and trigger further scams from cyber criminals looking to attack and extort vulnerable people. 

So, it is essential to stay vigilant against any suspicious activities. If you receive email and SMS communications prompting you to click on hyperlinks, proceed with caution. When in doubt, do not click on any links that look suspicious and never provide your passwords, or any personal or financial information. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the organisation, do not feel pressured to give away your confidential information. Instead, you can let the person know that for security reasons, you’d rather call back using their official phone number to continue the call.

4. Update your devices to the latest version 

Cybercriminals are always looking for ways to hack into your devices. So, when your software is not up to date, this enables them to get into your system and exploit the weaknesses. This is why you need to download the most recent version of software updates every time one is released, to protect your data against new threats. You can even set up an automatic update so you don’t need to keep checking if a new update has been released. Find out how you can further protect your business against cyber attacks in this article

What to do if you think your identity has been stolen

  • The first thing to do is call the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC)’s 1300 CYBER1 hotline for advice. You can also contact Moneysmart, ID Care and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).
  • Apply for a Commonwealth Victims' Certificate, which will help to support your claim that you have been the victim of identity fraud. This certificate can help to re-establish your credentials with government or financial institutions.

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