Simple Ways to Avoid the Most Common Online Mistakes
People today live in a hyper-connected world, thanks largely to social media and e-commerce. In their increasingly digital lives, people are sharing more and more personal information online without a second thought.
But with so much of our private data readily available online, how can you stay safe? By being mindful online and taking a few extra steps, you can prevent your personal information from ending up in the wrong hands. Read on to learn how to stay safe online.
Never Use the Same Password for Multiple Accounts
Most people are guilty of this mistake. Once they find a password that they like, they use it for everything. After all, it’s much easier to remember one password than it is to remember 50. However, it’s also incredibly insecure.
Take Advantage of Privacy Settings
In addition to what you can do on your computer itself, there are also settings on social media providers like Facebook and Twitter that allow you to alter what content you see as well as what you let others view. Depending on the platform, pictures, old posts, contact information and more can be kept hidden from strangers — or everyone.
Watch Out for Hoaxes and False Information
You can’t believe everything you read. Online hoaxes are a widespread problem, and it’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish fake news from real news. Fake stories thrive on social media where people regularly share things without reading or investigating them first.
Be Careful When Logging Onto Public Wi-Fi Networks
Everyone loves free Wi-Fi. Most people are on their phones constantly, and no one wants to waste data when they don’t have to. But guess who loves public Wi-Fi as much as you do? Hackers!
Refrain From Clicking on Unverified Links and Attachments
Scammers may send emails that appear to be from legitimate businesses or people you know to gain access to your usernames, passwords or other personal data. They may send a link to a page where you can type in your private information, or they may email you an attachment that contains a virus or malware. This type of scam is known as phishing.
Be Careful With What You Publish
Whatever you publish on the internet is often permanent. Whether it’s a comment or a blog post, it may be impossible to take back whatever you said. That’s why it’s important to be cautious about what you post online.
Never Post Photos of Your Boarding Passes
Maybe you’re super psyched about your upcoming vacation. You just want all of your friends to know how excited you are. But while posting a photo of your boarding pass may seem innocuous, it can actually provide strangers with a slew of personal info that you do not want floating around the internet.
Avoid Sharing Wi-Fi Access With Neighbors And Strangers
Everything you do online is identifiable by your IP address. This is directly connected to your router rather than an individual device like a laptop. That means that if someone does something illegal on your Wi-Fi, it can be traced back to you and your home.
Don’t Take Personality Quizzes From Sources You Don’t Know
Sure, it’s fun to learn which Harry Potter character you are or which celebrity is your soulmate. But any time a website asks for your personal information, you should be wary. Sometimes, data mining companies build personality quizzes and post them on social media so they can collect your personal data and sell it to advertisers.
Regularly Update Your Antivirus Program
Although internet security software may not be able to protect you and your computer from every online threat, it can identify and remove the most dangerous malware. This is why it’s imperative to keep your antivirus program up to date and to check for updates every month.
Don’t Share Photos of Event Tickets
Picture this: you purchase tickets to see your favorite band perform live in concert. You’re so excited that you post a photo of your tickets on social media. The big day finally arrives, but when you show your tickets at the door, the staff say your ticket has already been scanned and they can’t let you in. What happened?
Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication requires you to have two ways of proving your identity before logging into an account. Because it takes a little bit of extra time to set up, most people don’t bother using two-factor authentication. Nonetheless, this added security measure is worth your effort and time.
Don’t Go Online When You’re Angry
It’s never been easier to openly lash out in anger online. However, the comments you publish on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram can have serious repercussions for your personal and professional life. This is why it’s best to keep yourself distanced from social media when you’re upset or angry.
Be Careful About What’s in the Background of Your Photos
You are (hopefully) not dumb enough to share photos of your debit cards, credit cards, social security card or driver’s license. Even so, it’s easy to accidentally post a photo containing personal info. You may have left one of your cards on a table that happens to be in the background of your latest selfie.
Only Shop Online From Secure Websites
When you make an online purchase, you’re going to need to hand over your banking information, whether it’s a credit or debit card — and that’s exactly what cybercriminals are looking for. Ensure you only use personal banking information on secure websites when shopping.
Avoid Broadcasting That You’re Going on Vacation
If you’ve watched Home Alone, you know how dangerous it can be for your home (and forgotten son) if someone knows you’re not at home. Your property can be broken into and your valuables can be stolen.
Close Down Inactive Accounts
Most people online leave behind a trail of abandoned accounts. Perhaps you’ve outgrown an old email address or you stopped using a social media account. But did you remember to actually delete the old account? If not, you’re leaving yourself susceptible to hackers.
Don’t Announce When You’re Leaving Your Office
You already know that you shouldn’t post about when you go on vacation. The same goes for when you leave your office building. Though you likely don’t need to worry about a real-life robbery there, cyber theft is another thing entirely.
Take Care When Sharing Photos of Your Desk
Of course, you can still let your followers know when you "rise and grind" or how much you’re loving the #freelancelife. However, you should always be cautious when posting a picture of your desk or workspace. Why? That’s often where people store their confidential personal and business data.
Don’t Share Your Home Address
Your home address is yet another piece of personal information that you don’t want just anybody to see. Your friends and family know where you live, but you wouldn’t shout it out to the whole world. When you post a picture of your front door, you are doing just that.
Only Download Apps From Known Websites
Apps are one of the newest methods cybercriminals are using to deliver dangerous malware to mobile devices. Malicious apps are fairly common, and more are made every year. In fact, mobile malware increases by a total of 55% every year.
Never Accept Friend Requests From Strangers
Think about all of the information readily available on your social media profiles. Anyone who looks at your profile can see your name, what you look like, your hometown, your habits, the places you visit, who your friends and family members are and more. Do you really want a stranger to know that much about you?
Avoid Sharing Your Full Birth Date and Hometown
Birthdate and hometown are two of the most private pieces of personal data, but that doesn't stop people from sharing them in their social media profiles. You’d be shocked to hear what a scammer can do with just your birth date and your hometown.
Secure Your Online History With Privacy Settings Turned On
Hackers can learn a lot about you through your active browsing history. Fortunately, you can control a lot of this information through privacy settings turned on your browser. Web browsers, mobile browsers and social media platforms often have the built-in ability to disable tracking cookies and help keep you protected online. (Although it should be noted that service providers can track your browsing regardless.)
Don’t Provide Too Much Information About Your Children
Your kids are no doubt adorable, and you love them very much, but that doesn’t mean you have to post their every movement online. When you share too much personal information about your children on the web, you’re making it easier for potential predators to find and harm your kids.
Watch Out for Text Message Scams
Phishing doesn’t just happen in your email; it can also occur through SMS texting. This type of attack is known as smishing. You may get a text with a link that says it's from a store, your school or your doctor.
Avoid Online Shopping While You’re Intoxicated
Drunk shopping never ends well, even when you’re not online. You’ll end up spending more than you can afford and likely buy things you don’t even need. The only thing that could make your impending hangover worse is waking up in debt. To save yourself more than a headache in the morning, you should keep your phone and laptop out of reach while intoxicated.
Don’t Use Online Medical Sites to Give a Self-Diagnosis
One of the more popular medical sites for self-diagnosis is WebMD. Although it might be tempting to determine whether or not you have an illness, it’s best to trust your doctor over potentially misleading information online. Following directions from online medical sites can even put you in harm’s way.
Avoid Fights on Social Media
From tweets to YouTube comments to memes, there are plenty of things online to make you angry. The best advice to keep in mind when you run into one of these situations? Don’t engage.
Use Different Devices for Banking and Recreation
Some gaming and movie streaming websites leave your computer screen littered with pop-ups. These can install dangerous malware on your computer or device without your knowledge. Hackers can then use this to gain access to your personal data.