In your in­ter­est: Paul Clitheroe

Money Magazine Australia - - CONTENTS - Paul Clitheroe is Money's chair­man and chief com­men­ta­tor. He is also chair­man of the Aus­tralian govern­ment's Fi­nan­cial Lit­er­acy Board and a best-sell­ing au­thor.

What do you think our most pop­u­lar pass­word is for all those ac­counts we have on­line? I guessed in­cor­rectly. I thought we might be marginally orig­i­nal and use our dog's or cat's name, or our birth date. These are about as se­cure a wet pa­per bag. But no, the most pop­u­lar pass­word for our per­sonal in­for­ma­tion and key data is 123456.

I nearly fell off my chair when I found out. We hear so much about on­line fraud and the crit­i­cal role that pass­words play in pro­tect­ing us, yet many peo­ple do the equiv­a­lent of leav­ing the keys in the car and the front door open, with a wad of cash in easy view.

We all know the prob­lems of myr­iad pass­words. And I do agree that many of the sites we open with a pass­word are pretty in­nocu­ous. I ac­tu­ally do use my now de­ceased dog's name on a cou­ple of sites. Two of these are footy tip­ping sites. I seem to come dead last ev­ery year, so if any­one cares to hack into these and change my tips I would be grate­ful. I also use pretty stan­dard pass­words for my golf club and yacht club. If any­one wishes to go to the ef­fort of check­ing out my clubs mem­ber's din­ner menu, or what our start time is for our next yacht race, feel free.

If you are won­der­ing what has in­spired these words, it is be­cause in May there was a Privacy Aware­ness Week. I read through some of the news re­leases and also took a look at Scamwatch ( We have well and truly moved on from crooks rob­bing banks to crooks scam­ming us. A scam may cause huge emo­tional dis­tress, but it tends to be a non-vi­o­lent ac­tiv­ity so does not get big head­lines in the me­dia. Hence Privacy Aware­ness Week: the mes­sage about on­line se­cu­rity is not sink­ing in.

Let's do the ba­sics first. The usual scam trick is phish­ing, where we get scammed into hand­ing over per­sonal de­tails. I had a good ex­am­ple of this re­cently. At 6am on a Sun­day morn­ing the phone rings. I was half asleep, which is of course part of the scam, but the con­ver­sa­tion went some­thing like this. “Good morn­ing, Mr Clitheroe, it is Peter from NAB. Can I just check you are Paul Clitheroe and your date of birth is July 7, 1955, and your ad­dress is .... ” Here he cor­rectly gave my ad­dress. He con­tin­ued: “As I am speak­ing to you at home, I can safely as­sume you are not in Croa­tia us­ing your NAB Visa card to with­draw $1000 cash. We be­lieve you are be­ing scammed. We wish to put your card on se­cu­rity hold for your own pro­tec­tion.” At this stage I was most im­pressed: my bank was look­ing af­ter me. We ac­tu­ally had a bit of a laugh about me not be­ing in Croa­tia and he dis­cussed how the bank would re­fund the amount I had been scammed for. He even en­cour­aged me to go straight to my com­puter af­ter the call to check for my­self.

Any­way, the twig dropped when he said, “All I need to do to put a hold on your ac­count and re­place the $1000 is to get your pin num­ber.” I am pretty aware of scams, but it did throw me a bit but not enough to fall for it. Pretty im­pres­sive, though!

Hack­ing is some­thing I would think we are all on top of with de­cent se­cu­rity scan­ners. Mind you, if 123456 is the most pop­u­lar pass­word, I prob­a­bly should not as­sume that. Re­mote ac­cess, where a scam caller pur­port­ing to be from Ap­ple or Out­look con­vinces you to al­low re­mote ac­cess to your sys­tem so they can “fix it”, is very pop­u­lar as is in­tro­duc­ing mal­ware into your sys­tem.

Fake on­line pro­files are very com­mon, and if an on­line stranger is ask­ing for your pet's name, you can be cer­tain they are groom­ing you for po­ten­tial pass­words.

Fall­ing prey to the bad guys can cost you dearly. The Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Crim­i­nol­ogy says vic­tims of iden­tity theft are left out of pocket by an av­er­age of $3696, though in some cases losses have ex­ceeded $500,000.

Pro­tect­ing your­self from iden­tity fraud or an on­line scam is the same as lock­ing your front door. Cy­ber crooks typ­i­cally get hold of per­sonal de­tails by hack­ing our com­put­ers or via email or so­cial me­dia. So make sure you have the lat­est se­cu­rity soft­ware in­stalled on all dig­i­tal de­vices, in­clud­ing com­put­ers, tablets and phones, and keep them up­dated. Use unique pass­words and change them reg­u­larly. Noth­ing is per­fect but at least do the elec­tronic equiv­a­lent of lock­ing your doors!

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