The popularity of the internet has grown in leaps and bounds over the past two decades, providing us with easy and convenient access to news, entertainment, commerce and many other conveniences at a click of a button. However, this modern technological haven is also plagued with many online threats that constantly expose us to cybercrimes, very much similar to the real world.
So, here are 5 online mistakes that make you vulnerable to attacks by cybercriminals, so that you can actively safeguard yourself with preventative measures.
1. Excessive data sharing
Contrary to popular belief, social media is not the only way we divulge our personal details in the cyberspace. While it is certainly one of the primary means to gain access to an individual’s personal information, there are many other methods used by criminals to obtain user data. From free offers to online subscriptions, there are various instances when you are prompted to register your details in order to gain customized or exclusive benefits. Even public records like addresses and property ownerships are available online now with the online migration of data, making it easier for anyone to access much more information than what you share on your social media profiles.
All these details are often shared with third parties based on privacy settings and policies and can be widely circulated online for marketing as well as fraudulent purposes. They can also be accessed by hackers for malicious activities.
Therefore, while you are cautious about what you share on social media, you also need to take heed about what and where you share your basic details like name, email addresses, and date of birth. An easy way to get an idea of the level of personal information that is already freely available about you is by visiting a people search site. And some of these sites like Nuwber now even allow you to wipe off your collated online data with a simple online request.
2. Saving passwords on the browser
As our online activities have increased over time, the number of personal accounts used by an individual has also grown significantly. In fact, a study by Digital Guardian reports that nearly 3 in 10 people are unsure of how many online accounts they have, which require a password. A common solution to this challenge applied by most people is the saving of passwords on the web browser. Many popular browsers like Google Chrome prompt users to save passwords that are automatically filled to help you quickly log in the next time you visit the website.
Despite the irrefutable conveniences it brings, there are many risks attached to this common practice. For instance, if your device becomes prey to a malware attack, a hacker could easily gain access to your personal accounts with just one click. The same applies if your device is stolen, easily placing your most confidential details in the hands of a criminal.
An effective solution for this is using a trustworthy password manager like Dashlane and LastPass. While these software and apps are also not 100 percent immune to vulnerabilities, they provide a safer alternative to web browsers to safely store and retrieve your passwords. They can provide the same conveniences with added security, and create secure passwords for your accounts and safely store them, saving you from the hassle of memorizing each one of them.
3. Downloading free apps
Mobile apps available to simplify and enhance our modern-day lives have continued to grow, becoming an essential part of our daily activities. However, all these can come at a risk. For instance, over 80 percent of shopping apps are found to leak personal data of users. And many apps get access to a surprising amount of personal data such as phone contacts, text messages, photos as well as location tracking, exposing users to the risks of data theft and monitoring of your online activities. But that’s not all, malicious malware are also commonly encountered through app downloads and could wipe out or steal confidential data from your smartphone.
So, limit yourself to larger well-known app stores like Google Play and Apple AppStore, which have strict guidelines and monitoring systems to screen third-party apps offered on their platforms. Also, be mindful of the app permissions you grant when downloading and installing new third-party apps in order to avoid sharing personal details unnecessarily.
4. Unsafe online purchases
E-Commerce has picked up pace with the ease and convenience offered by online shopping, and at times even putting the conventional brick-and-mortar stores out of business. And as online retailing has grown in popularity, crimes associated with it have also escalated significantly.
Cybercriminals can exploit vulnerabilities in retail websites and carry out various malicious activities like identity theft and credit card fraud. Stealing customer account information, unauthorized tracking of purchasing activities, fake online shops, malware attacks as well as fake payment gateways to steal credit card details have all become common cybercrimes connected to online shopping.
Therefore, practice caution when shopping online no matter how tempting it might get. While no online retailer is resistant to security threats, selecting reputed websites can assure you greater protection with their stronger security systems and practices. Also, be cautious when disclosing credit card details, and experts recommend opting for a payment option like PayPal instead wherever possible.
Using websites with HTTPS instead of HTTP and with the lock symbol next to the URL can also provide you with a safer online shopping experience as these websites use data encryption to help prevent hackers from stealing data.
5. Using public Wi-Fi
As Wi-Fi is freely available in most public places, from shopping malls and restaurants to hotels and airports, using public Wi-Fi has become a common practice for many. However, this places you at significant risk as most public Wi-Fi networks are unsecured and are easily accessible by data hackers, allowing them to track your online activities as well as to steal personal data.
Despite draining your data and battery, opening up a personal hotspot connection is a safer alternative. And if you must connect to a public Wi-Fi network, ensure that you use a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection, and avoid visiting websites that require you to login or enter any personal and identifiable details like your name and email address.