President’s Column | 11 October 2019

Image shows President David O'Loughlin smiling in front of a black background

The annual Stay Smart Online Week draws to a close tomorrow, and this is an opportunity for councils to take stock of their online security measures, and also consider the menace of cyber bullying of councillors and staff.

The Commonwealth Government says almost one in three Australian adults fell victim to a cybercrime in 2018, such as through online identify theft or scams.

As the closest layer of government to our communities, Local Government is privy to sensitive data, and we have a responsibility to ensure that such information is managed properly and securely.

Commonwealth agencies advise that ways to protect that data include knowing how to spot phishing scams – emails or text messages that look genuine but are a way for a user to unwittingly give their or someone else’s data away.

Emails are a common way to trick individuals and councils to click on a link that loads malware or ransomware.

While spam filters can catch some dangerous emails, it’s a good idea to never open any message from a sender you don’t know or are not expecting.

We need to be cautious about what personal information we reveal online, whether it’s via our social media accounts – which the Australian Cyber Security Centre advises should be restricted to people we know – or what sort of passwords we use.

And with tax returns due by the end of October, now’s the time to be aware of tax scams and educate yourself about ways to identify and avoid them.

The Australian Taxation Office has a series of recommendations for what to do if an organization suspects it’s had a data breach.

Turning to cyber bullying, it is disappointing to learn of councillors in several jurisdictions who have been subject to personal attacks via social media, and I condemn any trolling or online abuse of councillors and council staff, particularly by anonymous cowards.

People who work in local government do so because they want to serve their communities and help them achieve their best.

Last year, following a suggestion the Western Australian Local Government Association, ALGA met the Office of the eSafety Commissioner to highlight the consequences of bullying on the wellbeing of elected members and employees.

The Office has a range of tips and advice which are relevant to local government, including:

 Cyber-abuse and the actions you can take

eSafety for women

Image-based abuse

The Office has created this guide for how adults can take action including ways to collect evidence of cyberbullying material.

All of us have the right to a safe workplace, whether that’s in person or online.

David O’Loughlin

ALGA President