We’re often going about our daily business with a false sense of security. It’s not uncommon to feel this way, particularly when we’re in our routines and feel safe in the areas we walk through frequently. Of course, for many of us, our homes are our havens where we feel the safest, after having taken care of any security concerns in and around our house or apartment buildings.
There’s another aspect of our security that we seem to overlook far too often – the issue of our online security. Today, our physical lives and online lives are inextricably connected. Unless you’re planning to get off the grid completely, you’ve got to make a point of taking your digital security seriously. Not doing so can put your online and real-world lives at risk, leaving you in a precarious and helpless situation. With online scams and hacks, it’s really easy to become a victim of identity theft as a result of having our personally identifiable information stolen. How do these things happen? Let’s take a look at 5 things you do every day that leave you vulnerable online.
1. Using Public Wi-Fi Hotspots
Why would using a public hotspot leave you vulnerable? They’re so simple to connect to while you’re out and about, especially if you’re sitting at your favorite café while working, or if you connect to the airport Wi-Fi to kill time while waiting for your flight. It doesn’t mean that it’s not dangerous just because it’s easy and we all do it. In fact, it’s for this reason that public Wi-Fi hotspots are a goldmine for cybercriminals.
Security is a huge issue with public networks. For one, cybercriminals can easily spoof a Wi-Fi network like “Starbucks Wi-Fi” in order to gain access to your login details. Other than spoofing, security on these networks is generally quite low. They’re public, after all, and allow anyone to be able to access them – that includes those who want to steal the information of other innocent users on the network.
Using a VPN, or virtual private network, is of great benefit whenever you log into a public Wi-Fi hotspot, or any network that you’re not really sure of. A VPN encrypts your data so that it’s far more difficult for hackers to steal your passwords and other information, as it offers you the security of your own wireless network over a public connection.
2. You Open Unfamiliar Email without a Second Thought
You’ve got to be mindful when opening any unusual emails. Scammers have a way of sending you emails that lead you to click suspicious links or open dangerous attachments that can leave you vulnerable online.
Phishing scams are a very common way for hackers and cybercriminals to gain access to your personally identifiable information. These scams rely on you to hand over your information willingly, after being duped into believing that the email in question is genuine. For example, many phishing emails closely resemble legitimate emails from your bank, social media platforms, or major online shopping retailers. These links seem to be legitimate, too. When you click them, you’re taken to a page modelled after your bank’s login page, for example. Here, scammers hope that you’d believe that the page is real and log in using your sensitive personal information. This way, they’re able to gain access to your bank account with the details that you’ve provided, without you being aware. Make a point of learning about email phishing scams and not opening emails or downloading attachments which would likely install spyware or other malware onto your device.
3. Accepting Invitations from Strangers Online
While social media is a fantastic place to connect with friends and meet new people online, it’s also a place where cyberstalkers prowl. These stalkers use social networks to gain information about their potential victims. Use Nuwber to verify the identity of those that you connect with on social media platforms and on dating sites and apps. Ensure that you check out their profiles so that you know who you’re dealing with, or who you’re considering to date. Many have been left vulnerable and have lost a lot as victims of catfishing, so this is something that you need to watch out for, too.
4. Using the Same Password for Multiple Accounts
You’re probably looking at the above heading and wondering how on earth you can use a different password for each of your accounts. After all, you’ve got so many accounts online that you can’t even keep track of them anymore. Even so, it’s essential that you don’t use the same password to log in to more than one account.
If there’s a data leak and your account details have been stolen by hackers, you’d want to change the password that is used on the platform that has been breached. However, chances are that you probably use the same email address to log into online shopping platforms, as well as your banking platform. If a hacker manages to gain one of your passwords, they’ll likely try to use the same password on any other account that your email address is linked to.
Password managers help to keep track of multiple passwords, so have a look into using one of those.
5. Accepting Privacy Policies before Reading Them
But as with any binding document that you sign, you’ve got to know what you’re agreeing to. Read through it and check how the platform treats your data and look for the option to opting out of your data being shared. Also, find out if your data can be deleted when you delete your account.