Lazy password habits let scammers in, expert warns

It goes without saying: Don't use 'password123'.

It goes without saying: Don't use 'password123'.

A report conducted for Telstra by YouGov has identified that 78 per cent of Australians are using the same password across various accounts.

Telstra’s cyber security expert Darren Pauli implored people to have a variety of passwords.

“I don’t think too many people would argue, password reuse – using the same password – is the most dangerous thing you can do on the net,” Mr Pauli said.

This reliance on using the same password has been one of the reasons Australians lost a staggering $194 million in the first four months of this year to scams. 

Of the $194 million stolen, more than $91 million was stolen from those aged 55 and older, showing scammers’ propensity to target a cohort that may be less familiar with technology.

The study also found that 46 per cent of Australians use weak passwords to secure their online accounts.

Examples of weak passwords may be:

  • One in 10 people use their favourite sporting team
  • 17 per cent of people use their birthdays
  • 20 per cent use their pet names.

The report also found that 1.5 million Aussies say they keep their passwords somewhere easy to find, and 63 per cent of people never or rarely change their banking passwords. 

For people struggling to keep track of all their different passwords for their various accounts, Mr Pauli suggests using a built-in, big-brand name password manager.

“Download it to your phone, Apple, Google it gets into that, you can’t use the net without having access to one, it logs into all of your browsers, it’s all really good.

“That will set your passwords for you, so that’s the go,” he said.

What you can do

Telstra has recommended people use the ‘SUSS’ acronym to help protect themselves from scammers:

Suspect unknown numbers
Update software
Strengthen passwords
Switch on multifactor authentication.   

Coinciding with ‘SUSS’, Mr Pauli encourages people to use multi-factor authentication (MFA) to securely guard your passwords.

“If you look at multi-factor authentication, I call it a deadbolt for your account, so your password is the key and this thing is the deadbolt.”

“Generally speaking, if they (hackers) come up against MFA, they just go onto the next person,” Mr Pauli said.

Telstra has also implemented its Cleaner Pipes initiative, which aims to block scams and potentially unwanted texts, phone calls and emails.

Since the initiative’s launch, it has blocked nearly 230 million scam texts and stops an average of 10 million scam calls every month.

Mr Pauli commended the success of the initiative.

“It’s a good thing and I am super proud of it, and I think they are doing a really good job,” he said.

He called on people who do receive texts or calls that Cleaner Pipes has missed, to report them to help eradicate them and save others from falling victim.

“We’ve got this report number, it’s a global number – 7226 – and you can report the ones that come through.

“So it won’t help you but it will help (future people) so it feeds into the training system about what got through.”

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