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Financial Cybercrime: Staying safe online

The following piece was written by Anvij Saxena, Chief Risk Officer at Colonial First State.

As our financial lives move gradually more online, cybercrime is becoming more widespread. As simple as a phishing email or as far-reaching as the WannaCry ransomware attack that hit more than 150 countries in May 2017, cybercrime can have devastating impacts on individuals and businesses alike.

It’s estimated that cybercrime costs Australia more than $2 billion each year. [1] Identity fraud, in particular, has increased by 80% since FY 2014/15, with 27% of Australians reporting they’ve been a victim of identity theft at some stage in their lives. [2] And while it’s important to appreciate that cybercrime is real and on the rise, there are simple things you can do today to help keep yourself safe online.

How can you keep your personal information secure?

  • Regularly update software. Installing updates for your operating system and applications is essential.
  • Don’t divulge personal information when requested via email. Verify any such request from the source using different channels  (such as a phone call).
  • Beware of emails asking for financial information. Banks, super funds and other financial providers will never ask their customers to email personal financial information or login details for secure websites.
  • Choose a strong password. A good password is easy for you to remember but difficult for anyone else to guess. The strength of your password is determined in part by its length and complexity (try to avoid words you’d find in a dictionary). Avoid using the same password across multiple services – if you use a lot of digital services, consider using a password manager that stores data on your local device. It’s also best practice to change passwords for critical services every few months.
  • Invest in basic antivirus protection. Anti-virus software can go some way toward protecting your device against known threats.
  • Keep up-to-date. Resources such as the government’s ‘Stay Safe Online’ website at staysmartonline.gov.au reports on the latest online threats and provides tips on how to protect yourself online.
  • Restrict use of public Wi-Fi to web browsing. An open Wi-Fi network can be used to intercept communications between your devices and the internet, such as user names, passwords and financial information.

Working together

Colonial First State actively works to support advice practices in protecting their clients.

With a dedicated fraud detection team that uses data analytics and reporting tools to flag irregularities, Colonial First State tries to ensure every transaction is legitimate. In April 2017 alone, over 5,000 transactions were flagged by Colonial First State’s systems as potentially suspicious. Twelve of these required extensive investigations and two ended up being confirmed fraudulent attempts which were then prevented from being processed.

It’s a constant challenge for the financial services industry to stay ahead of cybercriminals. However, continued vigilance and investment in fraud controls, as well as super funds working together with financial planners and you, provides the best opportunity for protecting against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats.


[1] Australian Institute of Criminology, Identity Crime and Misuse in Australia Report, 2013-14

[2] Veda, Cybercrime and Fraud Report, 2016

This information has been prepared by Colonial First State Investments Limited ABN 98 002 348 352, AFS Licence 232468 (Colonial First State) based on its understanding of current regulatory requirements and laws as at June 2017. It is not advice and provides information only. It does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. You should read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement available from the product issuer carefully and assess whether the information is appropriate for you and consider talking to a financial adviser before making an investment decision.