Are You Guilty of These Seven Bad Online Habits?
You could be making yourself a prime target.
- By John Mason
- Sep 25, 2018
These days, millions of people around the world need the Internet in their daily lives. The Internet is so intertwined in our lives that even the EU recognizes internet access as a right.
To most users, the Internet is just a road that connects them to the rest of the world. What most people don't know that the Internet is an ecosystem. In this ecosystem, cyber predators and parasites exist.
And, just like their counterparts in nature, these cyber predators and parasites target the weakest and the complacent. They rely on people’s bad online habits to help them select the best targets.
Are you making yourself a prime target? Read on and find out.
Seven bad online habits and how to fix them.
You rely on default security software. When you get a new device or computer, do you use it as is thinking that nothing could go wrong? You may think that your device or computer comes built with the best security software already but you’d be wrong.
For starters, your internet traffic is easily readable by anyone who gets a hold of your connection. You see: the data you send through the internet comes in neat little data packets that contain easily readable plain text. That’s why anyone who has intercepted your connection, whether they be hackers, your ISP, or the Government, can easily tell what your search for and what sites you’re visiting.
How do you counter this? Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). VPNs secure your data by encrypting it and by hiding your IP address.
This makes any and all data you send and receive online unreadable to anyone monitoring your data. What’s more, with most VPNs touting AES 256-bit military-grade encryption, you can rest assured that no one is cracking that security any time soon.
But let’s say, hypothetically, that someone does indeed break through your VPN’s encryption. Is your personal identity now unsecured?
It’s still secure. This is because the data isn’t connected to your real IP address. This means that even in the nigh impossible event that your VPN’s encryption is cracked, your still secure because it’s hidden your real IP address.
Now, what if you visited untrustworthy sites and got a device or computer infected with malware before you got a VPN? How will you get rid of these malware? You need the best antivirus program.
This software seeks and destroys viruses hiding in your device or computer. Most antivirus programs will then act as a firewall, preventing sites from sending you data that your device or computer didn’t request.
You frequently visit untrustworthy sites. As stated above, do you often visit untrustworthy sites despite the warning given by your firewall? What is an “untrustworthy site” anyway?
Well, an untrustworthy site is any site that has an HTTP connection instead of HTTPS. This is because HTTP connections aren’t encrypted like HTTPS connections. You can easily determine a site’s security by looking for the green padlock and the word “Secure” before the HTTPS and URL.
Note: just because a site is secure doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe. This is because hackers could just as easily get an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate for their sites. Needless to say, you still need to exercise caution even on these secure sites.
An example of an unsafe secure site is a torrenting site. This is because of the nature of a torrent itself. You see: Torrents rely on P2P (Peer-2-peer) connections where each user acts as the source for other users’ downloads.
This exposes users to malware (hidden in the files they download) and data breaches because hackers who access data from others’ computers might use that connection to access other data too. Also, hackers often trace the IPs of all the users who downloaded their files.
This is why it would be best to avoid torrent sites for good and look for other ways to share large amounts of data.
However, torrenting is one of the best ways to share a large amount of data across the internet. It may be too valuable to let go. If so, make sure to get the best VPN software for torrenting to make sure that hackers won’t find their way into your device or computer.
You nonchalantly connect to public wifi. Do you frequently stay at Starbucks and connect to their public wifi? You may not be aware but you’re setting yourself up for a MitM (Man-in-the-Middle) attack.
These attacks are often done in places with public wifi because it’s easier for hackers to monitor the internet activity of everyone around him using the same connection.
Another, equally sinister, way hackers use public wifi is by mimicking the public wifi network of the place you’re at. Hackers do this by setting up their own public wifi and naming it something similar to the real one. They can then monitor and record all the data from users of their fake network.
This is why you should avoid public wifi like the plague. However, if you must connect to them, make sure you’re using a VPN to secure your connection. Also, only visit HTTPS sites on public wifi just to be sure. Finally, and to be extra sure, never do your banking or online shopping while connected to public wifi.
You put off software updates for later. Have you ever connected to the internet and found that your device, computer, or apps have updates available? Do you install these updates when they become available or save them for later?
If you’re putting them off for later, you’re making a big mistake.
Unlike most users, hackers actively check for software updates. These updates are like beacons that tell them two things: 1. Which system or app has security weaknesses; and 2. Which users they can target.
This is because when the people behind the software or apps find vulnerabilities, they immediately release updates fixing these vulnerabilities. The problem is, hackers know that most people ignore updates which means these people’s software or apps are still vulnerable. In short: Hackers rely on your complacency to target you.
To fix this bad habit, always remember to install updates when they become available. You can also turn on auto-updates if your software comes with such an option. Also, when it comes to apps, less is more. Uninstall apps you haven’t been using for the past 6 months or so. Fewer apps = fewer vulnerabilities in the future.
You accept anyone’s friend request. While on any social media, do you often accept friend requests from people you don’t know? Do you ask yourself how you know them before you accept their friend request?
If you just accept their request without asking how you know them, you might be letting a hacker into your life.
This shouldn’t be old news you to you. Since 2015, hackers have been using fake Facebook profiles to trick users
into downloading spyware. The hacker can then use the information on your device or computer to impersonate you once you’ve downloaded their spyware.
On a similar note, hackers have also been using LinkedIn to tailor phishing attacks just last year. These phishing attacks use psychological tactics to get you to click on malicious links that contain malware.
This is why you should always check the profile of whoever sends you a friend request. Look for tell-tale signs of fake accounts like profiles with sparse/generic information or profile pictures that look like stock photos. If they have very few friends that you don’t know or none at all, odds are that’s a hacker trying to fool you.
You let your curiosity get the better of you. Speaking of malicious links, do you click on a link without hovering over or reading through it first?
If you are, you may need to check your device or computer for malware right now. This is because most of those mysterious links could’ve had malware.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Humans are just naturally curious. It is this curiosity that hackers rely on to get targets to click on malicious links.
People will never stop clicking links in phishing emails. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t exercise caution before you do. You can learn how to spot phishing attempts. Gaining this skill will save you from a world of hurt later on.
Aside from learning this skill, you can also run any link through a VirusTotal scan to see if it might contain malware. This online software also allows you to scan files that you’ve downloaded to make sure they’re safe. It works by running the URL or file through several antivirus programs at once to see if any of these programs recognize the URL or file as a threat-- just watch out for false positives.
You don’t protect your passwords. Do you know the top 5 most common passwords? They are 1234, “password”, 1111/0000, 12345, and “qwerty”.
If you’ve used any of these passwords for any of your accounts, you should change them right now. Weak passwords make Brute Force attacks really easy. Needless to say, you never want to be at the receiving end of one -- especially if your password is weak.
Learn how to make a strong password and try to memorize them instead of writing them down on a piece of paper that you may lose. If you have a hard time keeping them in memory, look for the best password managers you can find. These apps don’t only keep your passwords but they also generate strong passwords for you.
Finally, remember to never share your password with anyone else. Ever. Not even to your significant other.
Also, make sure to turn on two-factor authentication. This makes it so that anyone who gets your password still won’t be able to access your account if they don’t have the 2nd code on your other device.