Being safe in an online world is never 100%. There will always be hackers, viruses, and other nasty things you might run into online unless you cut yourself complete off. But, if you can avoid some simple, yet dumb, mistakes a lot of people make, life online will be better for you.
1. Using the Same Login Information Forever
You have probably read it somewhere before, but we cannot stress this enough: Do not use the same password for multiple account! Also, make sure to change your passwords regularly. If you have trouble remembering 100s of passwords, there are some apps that can help you out with that.
If you use the same password for everything, it's the same as having a key that works for your home, your safe, your car. If someone found that key, they have access to everything.
Changing passwords, meanwhile, protects you against the now-regular data leakshappening from companies large and small. If your login credentials appear on the web, it doesn’t matter so much if you’ve since changed them.
Changing passwords helps to protect you against regular data leaks, which happen more often than you think. If your password and login ID gets leaked online, it will not matter as much if you make it a habit of changing your passwords every couple of months.
2. Not Protecting Your Phone’s Lock Screen
If you do not have the lock of your phone protected with a PIN, Pattern, face or fingerprint scan, then your phone becomes the ultimate key to your private internet world in the hands of someone else. Up to 15% of users do not protect their phone.
Considering all of the options you have, PIN, fingerprint and face scanning, passwords, patterns, there is no excuse to use one of them to protect your private information.
One particular phone protection you should avoid is the pattern unlock method. According to a recent study from the US Naval Academy and the University of Maryland Baltimore County, it's the easiest method to crack. Research has shown that two-thirds of users can figure out the pattern to unlock your phone after only seeing you do the pattern once. If you use six-digit PIN code, only 1 in 10 users have a possible chance of figuring out your code if they catch you entering it.
3. Not Using Two-step Authentication
Two-step authentication, also know as multi-factor authentication, is a one time use randomly generated code you use in-conjunction with your username and password.
These codes can be sent to your phone via SMS, your email, or a dedicated app on your phone. More importantly, a lot of websites, that you probably use daily, support this feature. The method for setting this up is fairly straightforward and usually found under your account settings or security settings.
“If you are just browsing online or watching an item on an online auction, you won’t need multi-factor authentication,” Raj Samani, Chief Scientist at McAfee, stated. “However, if you are buying that item, it’s a whole different story because you are now sharing financial data. You need the right level of security based on the value of the account. Hackers find it much less appealing to try to hack a personal account that’s been safeguarded with multi-factor authentication, because it won’t be simple.”
3. Sharing Too Much
Anything you post online, that is publicly available, can be used to steal your identity, guess your passwords, or answer the security questions protecting your account. An Instagram photo in front of your house, a tweet about your cat's name and something crazy the cat did, post to parents, birthday announcements, all that data can be used to figure out passwords and security question answers.
The problem is that sharing is the normal thing to do now. Not many people remember how strange and potentially dangerous it felt to share photos on Facebook when the feature first rolled out. But, before you post something, you should think about how it could be used against you.
“It is imperative to understand how you can restrict what someone else can find out about you online,” David Emm stated, who is a principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. “Kaspersky Lab research shows that almost a third of people using social networks share their posts, check-ins and other personal information, not just with their friends, but with everybody who is online. dIf you wouldn’t publish something on the front page of a daily newspaper, don’t post it online.”
4. Using Public WiFi Without Thinking
Public WiFi is great for those who have a spotty cell connection or data limits. Because of that, it makes sense to connect to whatever public WiFi networks you can find to stay up to date with Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook.
The problem with public WiFi is that everyone else can connect to it as well as you. This will make that connection inherently less secure than your home network. If you must use public WiFi, you should invest in a quality VPN package and create your own encrypted route to the web. Most VPN services have an app for your phone/tablet/laptop that will handle the setup for you. Some of best VPN services are NordVPN and Private Internet Access.
If you don’t want to use a VPN, then there are some safety measures you can still take:
- Check the terms and conditions for getting online
- Stick to services you’ve already registered for rather than signing up for new ones
- Avoid doing anything important on public WiFi, like banking or purchasing or emailing
- Look for the HTTPS icon, on your browser's address bar, before entering any sensitive information.
“Public WiFi is an especially convenient choice for being always on, and is a great alternative to using up our phone data,” said Marty P. Kamden, CMO at NordVPN. “However, public free WiFi is not safe. Hackers and other malicious organizations are always on the lookout for gaps in security they can exploit: Public WiFi for them is a goldmine if you’re not using the right protective measures to keep your data safe.”