5 Bad Online Habits That Put You At Risk

Image credit: c2.staticflickr.com

Just about everyone uses the internet every day. Some of us (myself included) depend on the internet for our livelihood. We use it to work, to watch movies, for banking, shopping, and keeping in touch with friends and family.

The fact that we depend on the internet for so much makes us vulnerable to cyber crime. Online scams, identity theft, phishing, and other cyber threats are real – and the more you use the internet and your information is out there, the more vulnerable you are. So what’s the best way to avoid becoming a victim of online crime? Well, for starts, make sure you avoid these 5 bad habits:

1. Using the same password for everything.

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I used to be guilty of this one. It’s so much easier to remember your passwords if they’re all the same, right? Well, yes, but that also makes it easier for a cyber thief to crack into your password protected accounts. Imagine someone manages to find out the password for your Facebook account. No big deal, really. But if it’s the same password as your email and your bank account, then you’ve got a problem on your hands.

"Spear phishing " is one way that cyber criminals and identity thieves might try to gain access to your personal information. They'll send you an email that looks like it's from a friend or acquaintance, and they might even know a little bit about you. How do they get this information? Probably from your social media presence, so always be careful how much personal information you put out there on the internet.

They'll ask you for account passwords or personal information in the email, and since it looks like a friend you might be less wary and have your guard down. Once they get one password from you, they'll try the same one and variations of it to try to access other accounts of yours.

You can avoid that type of dilemma altogether by making sure you have different passwords for each of your accounts, and changing them often. Have trouble remembering all your passwords? Try using a password manager. LifeHacker has a great article about different password manager options and how secure they are.

2. Imagining your Mac is impenetrable.

Most Mac users have a rosy idea that their computers are not susceptible to cyber crime, but the truth is that Macs need internet security, too. Though it is true that Macs are less vulnerable malware, oversights or suspicious downloads by Mac users can make their personal information available to cyber criminals. 

In fact, a couple of years ago a malware program exploited a Java security flaw and managed to install itself  on 600,000 Macs. There have been a couple of other incidents since then, including one program that could take screenshots of users' desktops.

The best idea is to stay on the safe side and get some internet protection software for your Mac. Trend Micro, Norton, and Kaspersky all offer affordable Mac security software options. You don't have to drop a huge chunk of cash on Mac internet security either – use an internet security for Mac coupon code to make it more affordable.

3. Not securing your smartphone.

Very few people only use their phone to call people these days. Personally, I use my phone to text, send WhatsApp messages, view my bank balance, go on Facebook, use Instagram, find directions...and sometimes call people. With all this in mind, it’s kind of amazing that most people don’t use any type of security software at all on their smartphones. Not only are you vulnerable to cyber attacks through the internet, but if you were to leave your phone somewhere and it fell into the wrong hands, someone could easily get all your personal information.

According to experts at DigitalTrends.com , 76% of Americans risk identity theft and loss of personal data via their tablets and smartphones just from logging into public wifi networks without security software installed. By using public wifi without protection, mobile users make their photos, email, chat messages, and even banking information easily available to hackers.

Lucky for all of us, there is now security software available for both Android and iOS smartphones. If you want to just secure your computer, tablet, and smartphone all with one program, Norton 360 Multi-Device or Kaspersky Multi-Device are both good choices. If all you need is smartphone security, try Norton Mobile Security (and use a Norton Mobile Security coupon code to slash the price).

4. Giving away personal information at random.

I feel like websites are constantly asking me for my personal information. My email address, physical address, phone number, date of birth… it gets to the point where I get asked so often that I barely think twice before filling those types of things out.

Really, we could all stand to be a little more careful with where we post our information online. Only fill out your personal information on sites where the web address starts with “https://” and even then, only fill out what is absolutely necessary. 

Always be sure that the URL at the top of your webpage matches the site you think you're on. There have been scams where an email impersonates the IRS,  and sends you to an official-looking online form that it claims you must fill out with personal information. Of course, the form is just a scam and a way for identity thieves to steal your information. Make sure to check and double check that URL bar to make sure it's secure and is the website it should be.

Finally, make sure that when you post pictures to Instagram or Facebook, they don’t contain sensitive personal information! I’ve definitely seen people post pictures in which they accidentally include a shot of their address, credit card number, or other personal information.

5. Shopping and banking online in public networks.

It’s super convenient that with online banking and shopping, you can manage and spend your money anywhere, anytime. But there are some places where it’s not so smart to log into that bank account or provide those credit card details, even if the website you’re using is secure.

Those places are public networks – you know, the free wifi at the coffee shop, the airport wifi, the hotel wifi, the university network. Basically any large public network that many people are using is a bad place to be logging into sensitive accounts and sending sensitive information. 

Why? Because anybody can connect to these networks, and they're not secure. This article  from Medium.com shows just how easy it is for a hacker to use a public wifi network to access your personal information through your laptop, smartphone, or tablet.

This bad habit has an easy fix, though. Just make sure you’re either on your home (password protected!) network when you shop and bank. OnGuardOnline has some good tips for staying secure when using public networks.

Break those bad habits and stay safe online!

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