8 ways to improve the security of your personal data - GCITS Gold Coast

In 2022 we are online more than ever before, and many services that were previously done in person, such as banking, booking appointments and paying bills, are now completed through websites or mobile applications. As a result, the risk of cyber-attack has never been higher.
In the circumstances surrounding the Medibank and Optus hacks, there is not a lot that current and previous Optus customers could have done to prevent the exposure of their personal data. However, some steps can be taken to minimise the risk of exposing confidential data.

1. Use Antivirus Software

An often-overlooked step antivirus is an essential piece of software that can reduce malware attacks on your system. Once installed, you can let it run in the background, and it will automatically conduct malware scans and removal. Most antivirus can also offer several other features, including scanning removable devices such as USB drives, blocking spam websites and advertisements and detecting spyware.

While paid 3rd party antivirus software such as Bitdefender and McAfee can achieve the best results by activating and using Microsoft Security features, you can still get a fundamental level of protection. For Business, Microsoft 365 Defender is also a great choice to detect, manage and remove cyber security threats from your devices.

2. Protect your devices with strong passwords

It is good practice to password-protect your digital devices, including computers, tablets, and mobile devices, through strong, unique passwords. These devices can hold some of your most personal information as they now have access to everything from email accounts, social media accounts, banking apps, and an assortment of other information. If these devices fall into the wrong hands, a strong password will make it harder to access your device.

When creating your passwords, use a mix of symbols, numbers, and letters. Don’t use easy-to-guess passwords such as ‘123456’ or ’password’ or include information such as your birthdate or home address. This may sound like common knowledge, but research suggests that there is still a worrying amount of people using these easy-to-guess passwords. Make sure to use different passwords for different accounts. If you use the same password across multiple accounts and a hacker gains access to one account, it may compromise many others.

3. Set-up Two Factor Authentication on your Accounts

In addition to using strong passwords, two-factor authentication further improves your security. In a worst-case scenario, where your login details are compromised, a potential hacker will be blocked from accessing your data as they will still need to use an additional authentication method.

Many financial applications, online accounts and government logins now have two-factor authentication as standard or have the option to activate it. You can either get your authentication code via an app such as Google Authenticator, which creates time-based codes that renew every few seconds, gain a code via an email or get an SMS code directly to your mobile.

4. Learn to identify and avoid phishing scams

According to the ACCC (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission), Phishing scams are ‘attempts by scammers to trick you into giving out personal information such as your bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers.

These scams often pass off as legitimate businesses such as internet service providers, banks, or energy companies and try to gain your personal data by asking to confirm your details, login to your account or alert you to ‘unauthorised or suspicious activity on your account.’

As a rule, it is a good idea to never open emails from people you don’t know, and don’t download email attachments without knowing what they are. Never give out personal information when contacted by a business, bank or other entity and make sure your email spam filters detect phishing attempts.

Phishing scams may also appear as fraudulent websites, disguised to look the same as a legitimate website such as a bank, government agency or online shop. These are designed to gain your information, such as credit card information, login details, and personal addresses. Before you enter any personal data onto a website, be sure to check that it is legitimate. Signs of a legitimate website are an SSL certificate, a padlock icon, a green bar, or HTTPS at the beginning of the URL. Never enter personal information into a website accessed via a suspicious link from an email, SMS or social media message.

5. Setup alerts through your bank

Fraud alerts can be set up through your online bank account through emails, text messages or a phone call if your bank suspects suspicious activity may have occurred on your account.
Some banks, such as Commonwealth bank, also allow you to temporarily lock the use of credit cards if they have been lost to stop unauthorised use of your account. These measures have the ability not just to protect you against fraud but to save you money as well.

6. Follow the news to learn about data breaches.

As we have found in recent months, hackers don’t just target individuals. One of the ways your data can be compromised is when it is handled by a 3d party that becomes the target of a cyber-attack. Like the situation with Optus and Medibank, hackers will also try and often succeed in infiltrating businesses, government agencies, higher education institutions, health care facilities and any other organisations that gather personal or sensitive information.

When an organisation is subject to a data breach, they are legally required under the Privacy Act 1988 to notify affected individuals and the OAIC (Office of the Australian Information Commissioner). However, these situations can change rapidly, as seen with Medibank; initially, it was not known that personal medical history had been compromised. However, as the story developed, it was revealed that all customer personal data had been compromised. This is an example of why it is essential to keep informed about data breaches that may affect you, so you can be prepared to update or change any personal information or passwords asap.

To see the latest alerts, you can follow the ACSC (Australian Cyber Security Centre) on Facebook and Twitter, check out their alerts page on the website and sign up for email alerts.

7. Keep your devices and software updated.

Hackers will often try to exploit flaws in software and operating systems. They are looking for vulnerabilities they can use to insert malicious code. Microsoft and Apple regularly update operating systems with security patches, closing these vulnerabilities as they are found. Keeping your operating system and software up to date reduces how a hacker can access your device. As a best practice, updates should be applied within two weeks of release or 48 hours if a security exploit exists.

8. Use the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) to your advantage.

Many companies operating outside of Australian borders or with customers within the European Union must follow the GDPR. As a result, you may be able to get international companies such as Apple and Microsoft to delete your personal data based on this compliance. Be prepared for rejection however, as European Union laws do not apply to Australian Citizens, and companies can deny your request on this basis.

Not all security breaches can be prevented but taking steps to avoid violations and cyber-attacks can reduce the chances of them occurring and better protect your personal data in the long run, potentially saving you from the stressful or costly consequences of a cyber-attack.


At GCIT, we are specialists in providing Cyber Security services to numerous businesses across Queensland and New South Wales. Our Award-winning cybersecurity experts can take the stress out of IT Security and make sure your data is secure.

Contact GCIT to find out how we can help your Business protect against cyberattacks.

Many companies are allowing staff to work from home and remote indefinitely, raising questions about how they can protect work data on personal or uncontrolled devices.

As IT experts for working remote Gold Coast IT Support offer the following information to help.

Because we can lose company data in a variety of ways across different devices, we need to apply a variety of protection measures. Let’s take a look at the features in Microsoft 365 that can allow companies to protect their data while users are working remotely.

Use Mobile Application Management

Despite the name, mobile application management doesn’t just apply to mobile devices, it can also protect Windows 10 devices. Mobile Application Management policies can protect company data on both managed and unmanaged devices.

It works by applying protections to the apps your teams use to access company data, like Outlook, Teams, OneDrive and SharePoint.

You can enforce restrictions on these apps to prevent data being saved, cut, copied or pasted.

Mobile Application Management Prevent Copy Paste

You can also require a PIN when the app starts or block the app from running on a jailbroken phone or tablet.

Mobile Application Management Pin Code

This feature can be used to selectively wipe company data from a users device, without affecting their personal files. This is handy for organisations where staff use their personal computers and mobile devices to access company information remotely.

Mobile Application Management Wipe Device

Set up conditional access policies

We can use Conditional Access to enforce restrictions on non-compliant or unmanaged devices. Such as blocking access entirely, or preventing particular actions like stopping users from saving attachments in Outlook on the web or syncing files to OneDrive

We can apply these protections in other ways to apps like OneDrive and SharePoint. Preventing users from syncing data to their personal devices by either blocking access or only allowing limited web only access

SharePoint Prevent Access From Unmanaged Device

Expert IT advice for working remotely

Use Cloud App Security to protect data on third-party apps

These protections don’t just relate to Microsoft 365 apps like OneDrive, SharePoint and Outlook; we can use Microsoft Cloud App Security to apply additional protections to apps like Dropbox Business too. Applying protection to a third-party app like Dropbox Business can prevent users from downloading your company data to unmanaged devices.

Control Dropbox Access Unmanaged Device

Apps like Dropbox Business also provide their own security measures, allowing you to block access and wipe company data when a device next comes online.Wipe Dropbox Device Remotely

Configure idle session time outs

To lessen the likelihood of the wrong people accessing company information on a shared device, we can configure idle session time outs. These will sign users out after a period of inactivity, just like your bank does.

Enable SharePoint Idle Session Timeout

Get alerts on suspicious activities

Cloud App Security includes built-in alerts that trigger on potentially suspicious activities. We can use these to get notified about things like mass deletions, mass downloads and unusual volumes of external sharing

Enable Cloud App Security Alerts

Protect sensitive data with Data Loss Prevention

We can use data loss prevention to restrict or impose conditions on the sharing of sensitive information. These policies can trigger on certain keywords like project names or sensitive information types like credit card numbers, driver’s license details or tax file information. Once a file containing this info is detected, it can display a warning, be blocked from being sent or have encryption applied.

Use Data Loss Prevention

Using Cloud App Security, we can apply additional data loss prevention measures to third party apps like Box and Dropbox Business

Use Sensitivity Labels

But what happens if this all fails, and someone downloads company data to a personal, unmanaged device. To protect against this, we can apply sensitivity labels. These labels define how sensitive a particular piece of content is and in turn can enforce protections on our data. What’s more, these protections apply no matter where it ends up. These baked-in protections can limit who can access the file and what they can do with it. Preventing the wrong people from opening, copying, saving, forwarding or printing sensitive documents or emails.

Protect Data With Sensitivity Labels

In many cases, these protections can be applied automatically by scanning for those same keywords and sensitive information types that data loss prevention uses.

Automatically Classify Content With Sensitivity Labels

As you can probably tell by now, there’s a lot you can do to protect your sensitive data when people are working from home. If you need help with any of this, reach out to us below.

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While most organisations take measures to prevent and protect against external cyber-attacks, many don’t protect themselves against accidental leaks by their internal staff.

Accidental disclosure is the unintentional release or sharing of sensitive information. In Australia, human error was the cause of 32% of reported data breaches in the last half of 2019.

Causes of Australian Data Breaches December 2019

Sending private information to the wrong person can put an organisation’s reputation on the line and have a dramatic effect on the disclosed party. Under Australia’s Privacy Laws, businesses need to have security measures in place to protect personal data from being leaked unintentionally.

How does an accidental data breach occur?

It’s often a staff member sending an email to the wrong person or inadvertently attaching a document that contains sensitive information. It could also be sending Personally Identifiable Information like Tax File Numbers, Credit Card numbers or Medical information over insecure channels.

What steps can I take to prevent accidental data leakage?

It may be obvious, but it starts with user education.

Document your best-practices and train users on what types of information they can share outside of the organisation.

But what can we configure to make sure we detect and catch any mistakes before they go out?

Microsoft has tools that can prevent sensitive information from being sent unintentionally. Here is a brief list of each tool and what they can do:

Communication Compliance

Communication Compliance Alerts On Sensitive Info Types

Communication Compliance is the latest addition to Microsoft’s insider-risk toolset. Communication Compliance helps you detect, capture and take remediation actions when your team sends inappropriate messages.

So what’s an inappropriate message? It can be something that goes against HR policies, like the sending of harassment, inappropriate or offensive language. It can also detect adult, racy or gory images. You can use pre-configured templates to identify sensitive information types or create a custom policy that can detect references to confidential internal projects.

Once a message is detected, communication compliance triggers an alert for investigation and remediation.

Data Loss Prevention

Data Loss Prevention Policies To Stop External Sharing Of Sensitive Info

While communication compliance can monitor messages for inappropriate or sensitive information, data loss prevention policies can prevent them from being sent. Data-loss Prevention policies allow you to block, or impose conditions on the sharing of sensitive information.

With DLP, you can specify types of content that cannot leave your organisation. Sensitive info types include credit card information, tax file numbers, drivers license information and more. Microsoft 365 scans the content of your email, attachments and shared files and can either notify you or prevent it from being sent.

Office 365 message encryption

Office 365 Message Encryption

You can encrypt email and attachments to ensure that only the intended recipients can view their contents. You can also prevent recipients from forwarding, saving, copying or printing your email and attachments. Encryption can be applied by default to all messages, enabled manually by users, or automatically based on the type of information you’re sharing.

Sensitivity labels

Label Files And Emails With Sensitivity Labels In Microsoft 365

Your files can be labelled according to their sensitivity level, and policies can be applied relating to these levels. By appropriately labelling files and emails, you can ensure that your most sensitive information is only accessible by trusted recipients no matter where it ends up.

Use Auto-Labeling In Microsoft 365 Based On Sensitive Info Types

You don’t have to rely on a user labelling content based on an arbitrary choice. Automated file labelling scans the content of your file and applies a sensitivity label based on its content.

Use built-in external sharing alerts

Configure External Sharing Alerts in Microsoft 365

Configure built-in alerts for external sharing. Alerts in Microsoft 365 can notify you each time a user shares information externally, or when an unusual volume of external sharing occurs.

Microsoft Cloud App Security

Configure Microsoft Cloud App Security

Cloud App Security can detect suspicious activities across Microsoft 365 and third-party cloud apps. For example, it can let you know if someone performs a mass delete or download of your information from SharePoint, OneDrive, Dropbox Business, Google Drive or Box.

External Sharing Insights in Cloud App Security

Cloud App Security also provides detailed reports and insights into how your information is shared externally.

Share files via cloud storage

Share Files Via Cloud Storage To Prevent Accidental Leaks

A better way to share data is via cloud storage rather than email attachments. Using cloud storage, you can create links to files, set access control and timed expiry – as well as revoke access. You can also view audit logs of file access to understand who is viewing your information. Sending files as attachments is a less secure way of sharing data – if you have to use it, you should ensure your encrypting messages with file attachments or using sensitive labels to protect them.

Need help protecting your sensitive data?

Naturally, there is significant consideration and configuration to apply these settings and privacy controls for your organisation. At GCITS, we have experience in cloud environments with complex security requirements. We have developed a typical security profile based on the Australian businesses that we most often service.

We can deploy these security solutions with minimal disruption. Your team can work with unimpeded access to clients, suppliers and teammates knowing that automated safety nets are in place.

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