Which 7 Online Mistakes Will You Make Today?
It's the everyday habits that put you at risk.
There are two types of people who go online.
- Those who have run into trouble or have been hacked
- Those who have (luckily) managed to avoid any issues
We say "lucky" because the majority of people are "guilty" of online behavior that tends to put them at risk, even if they don't realize it. It's not that they are going to dangerous websites or falling for every scam they get in an email—most people know how to avoid those situations.
Here are the simple, innocent online habits you may have that could put you at risk.
Browsing on public Wi-Fi without protection
Danger: Unsecured networks are open to hackers.
Using an unsecure network at a coffee house or airport can be somewhat like reading a book or writing in your diary or personal journal with someone looking over your shoulder. We ALL love and appreciate free Wi-Fi and most of us need Internet access wherever we go. But with a few pieces of hidden hardware and software, a hacker sitting nearby can read all of your traffic.
If you use a hotspot, make it a point never do any important or private online transactions. The best advice? Sign up for a personal VPN account and use it every time you go online, especially when using free Wi-Fi.
Falling behind on browser updates
Danger: Hackers exploit browser flaws when they know of them.
Your Internet browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.), is susceptible to hacks by bad guys, just like any other program. Here was the scary, and very real, headline on a security website in Dec. 2016: "Mozilla and Tor Warn of Critical Firefox Vulnerability, Urge Users to Update." When there's a weakness in any program, including browsers, hackers are there to jump on it. The good news is that browsers try to stay a step ahead of trouble by releasing updates regularly. When was the last time you updated the browsers you use? Probably not recently enough. Don't wait for update alerts. Get the latest versions and updates now.
Sharing to many details on social media
Danger: It hands over personal information to those who might exploit it.
There are some people who totally avoid having any exposure on social media. They tend to be looked at as out of touch and behind the times. But one thing is for sure: they're protecting their themselves and limiting the amount of information that someone—anyone—could use to build a social profile on them and exploit their identity. Is that a stretch and a little paranoid? Maybe. But cybercrime consultants DO suggest you limit how much you tell the world about life, travels, interests and family online. Why? Because there are some out there who will use that information to impersonate you, trick you, or steal your identity...or your money.
Using the same password for different online accounts
Danger: If a hacker steals one password, he has access to the other accounts.
This is probably one area where almost everyone is guilty to some degree. The problem isn't with a small-time hacker; it's with the major hacks (Target, Home Depot, Yahoo, JP Morgan, for example) where thousands of usernames and emails are stolen at one time. Systematically, the same hackers will use the stolen "credentials" to unlock other accounts. For people who use the same password, their other accounts are at risk too. Are you using the same password for different accounts today? If so, change that.
Using passwords that are easy to break
Danger: It will be broken in a sophisticated hack attack.
There are two levels of simple passwords that hackers love. The first category is filled with "password," "abcde," "12345," and the like. Oh, and your name or nickname. The second category is the simple words or common terms that sophisticated hackers can get to in a matter of minutes, using fancy programs. A long password with a combination of letters, symbols and numbers (that makes no sense!) is virtually unbreakable.
Not installing program updates automatically
Danger: A virus that could have been blocked sneaks into your unprotected system.
Because Microsoft Windows has the highest market share, and it has many versions in operation, it is the operating system most probed for vulnerabilities...and attacked. That's why Microsoft continuously makes updates and "patches" available for Windows. In fact, all program developers send out updates to combat any flaws in their code that could be exploited. You can set your PC on "automatic update" to ensure that you get every Windows' update automatically. However, if you fail to update your operating system routinely—or if you forget to check for and download updates manually—you're putting your computer at risk. Get into the habit of updating your system's software when the manufacturer sends an update prompt or alert.
Opening links from e-mails without taking a close look
Danger: You can allow a virus into your computer with just a click.
Imagine receiving in package in the mail containing a poisonous chemical intended to hurt you. (Thankfully, that's a rare occurrence.) But most of us would be eager (or curious) simply to see what's inside a box on our doorsteps, and that's where we'd get hurt. Every day, millions of people get email (electronic letters) that contain a link to a file that is intended to infect our computer. The tricksters use emails or subject lines that sound normal, and they count on you being distracted, or busy or curious. Millions of people, every day, click on those links and download malware, viruses and more. These days, it's very important to take a close look at any emails that arrive in your inbox.
If you commit to not making any of the above mistakes, you will reduce the likelihood of falling into a hacker's simplest traps. Remember, cybercrooks look for cracks in hardware and software. If you put up a solid defense, they'll move on to the next computer and user, hoping to find an easy target.