It is virtually impossible to avoid the internet in one’s daily life. Computers, gaming consoles, phones, cars, and our homes are all connected to it in one way or another. This alone should be enough to have you consider the safest way to be attached to the digital world around you.
There are consequences for lapses in judgment online and for forgetting to pay attention to what you are doing while accessing the web. Some of the penalties can be devastating for you financially, personally, and professionally.
Hackers still make a living off gathering copious amounts of information about people. This data can be used in various ways including stealing your money or publicizing things you would rather keep private.
The good news is: it is possible to avoid these negative situations. Practicing safe internet behaviors combined with a firm knowledge of the dangers lurking out there can help you avoid such devastating consequences.
Here, we will examine some typical risky behaviors and some ways to avoid trouble online.
Behaviors That Could Leave You Exposed
There are many ways to expose yourself to data theft. Many of these are things you might do without even considering them dangerous. Here are five things an average internet surfer might do that could lead to major consequences.
- Downloading Unknown or Illegal Content
First and foremost, downloading content like pirated movies or games is prohibited by law in most countries. If that is not enough to make you reconsider, you should be aware that many of these files carry malware along with them.
Once you open or install a program from these infected files, you can be sure someone is using the malware to do you some form of harm.
- Using the Same Password Repeatedly
If there is one piece of online safety advice that is heard, over and over again, it is to create a unique password for every platform you might have to log in to. However, people still decide to forego this simple step.
There are apps and programs available now to make it less taxing to remember all your passwords. Using them can help prevent a mass hacking of all your accounts, emails, and social media accesses.
- Heavily Interacting with Strangers
This sounds like a warning for the younger crowd, but adults struggle with this mistake, as well. Social media makes it easy to “connect” with people you do not know.
Even professional resources like LinkedIn are known to have bots and people falsely representing themselves. Many LinkedIn subscribers are frivolous with connections, leading to increased potential for data theft.
- Falling for Phishing
Phishing scams have been around for as long as email has. Unfortunately, the quality of these attempts to defraud has gotten much better over time. Despite many warnings not to, people still click on links that end up being malicious content.
The best phishing emails look entirely legitimate, enticing people to fall into the dangerous trap of downloading a file or opening a link.
- Forgetting or Failing to Log Out
Not all data is stolen via cyber-attack or hacking attempts. Some is taken directly from the device that has been left unprotected.
The loss of a cell phone can be devastating and inconvenient but losing one that is not locked is even more frightening. Locking phones and logging out of systems are the only ways to prevent physical data theft.
Averting the Threats of Data Theft
The list above entails many, but not all, of the unsafe behaviors that lead to a loss of privacy, security, and safety. Taking certain measures can help avoid disaster and strengthen your confidence while you move around online.
- Use a VPN: Downloading a VPN to your device or computer can be a gamechanger when it comes to data security. These programs act as an encrypted tunnel, preventing hackers from stealing information as it leaves your device. A reliable VPN requires some investment, but some providers are offering coupon deals that could save a reasonable amount of money.
- Create Strong Passwords: A weak password that is used for every login is the easiest target for hackers. Make it difficult to steal your information and most hackers will look elsewhere for a victim.
- Use HTTPS Sites: When making transactions online, ensure the URL includes the ‘S.’ This provides improved security for your financial information and makes it less likely to be stolen.
- Stick with the Familiar: This rule applies to every online environment. Do not interact with strangers on social media. Do not download content from disreputable sources. Do not open links or download files from unknown or suspicious email accounts.
There are plenty of ways to unintentionally get in trouble while using the internet. As we have seen, there are also many steps to help prevent issues that could cause problems. Practicing a modicum of safety and being aware of the dangers can ensure your privacy and security while browsing.