We use multiple devices every day, from our desktop computers and laptops to tablets and mobile phones that we carry with us almost everywhere we go. Each of these devices, arguably, is connected to the internet. We’re almost never offline – whether that’s a positive or negative thing depends on your perspective. The point is, our lifestyle and, in many cases, our livelihoods, depend on being connected and being online.
Although it drives us, being perpetually online comes with its risks. We’re vulnerable with every packet of data that moves between any of our devices and a far off server. What we do online counts. What we don’t do online may be equally important. Let’s take a look at the kinds of actions we do and don’t do online that make us vulnerable.
Using the Same Password for All Logins
Accessing any account that you’ve created online requires your authorization and that special, hopefully unique, combination of characters (often including numerical digits and symbols, these days) that match your username. In fact, this isn’t just the case for online accounts, but your office computer or laptop requires a password, too.
We have this tendency to use the same password to access various accounts, devices, and platforms. In a world connected to the internet, this makes us immediately vulnerable. If the access point to one of our accounts is breached by hackers, chances are that an intruder will attempt to use the same password to get into any other linked, or associated accounts that they will mostly learn about.
So, make sure that you create strong passwords all round but, more importantly, make a point of using different passwords for different accounts. This may be less convenient for you now, but it ensures your online safety and reduces your vulnerability in the long-term.
Saying Yes – Accepting Every Invitation and Request
Many online platforms offer networking opportunities and a new invite on a professional networking platform like LinkedIn could very well offer benefits. However, it’s never a good idea to simply accept any invite that comes your way. Online scammers are looking to gain information about you from your profile, for the many nefarious, fraudulent activities that plague online citizens. We all think we’re immune, but there are no guarantees. Always be wary when accepting a stranger’s friend or connection request. Check out their profile as best you can, and if anything raises alarm bells for you, it’s best to ignore, or better, reject the invitation.
If professional opportunities do come knocking on a platform like LinkedIn, an overly-paranoid state of mind isn’t going to do you any good. Find out more about the person who contacted you, their affiliations and credentials, by pulling publicly-accessible information about them with Nuwber. If the contact is legitimate, you’ll be certain of it.
Being Too Trusting – Bordering on Naive
The last point ties in strongly here – never be too trusting online. While the internet offers the potential for communication like humanity has never seen before, it can often be a faceless world where scammers take advantage of good-hearted, trusting folk. This vulnerability allows scammers, often employing a sense of urgency to get you to act fast, to exploit your emotions and your wallet.
Oversharing – A Dangerous Social Media Problem
It’s a trusting nature of this sort that leads us to think that others have good intentions, just like we do. The reality isn’t as pleasant, and this has led to online predators to exploit the actions of those who share their lives and joy online.
Social media is a great place to connect and share your happiness with others in your life. Oversharing, however, is a dangerous habit. Posting images of your kids, their whereabouts, your vacations and routines, for example, all make you vulnerable online. Identity thieves, online fraudsters, and real life predators, are able to piece together important details of your life from what’s shared on social media.
Make sure not to share your location, turn up your privacy settings (check that your posts are not public), and post your holiday photos once you’ve returned home.
Don’t Open Unfamiliar Email – Especially Attachments
82% of organizations, on average, claim to have experienced an attempted email-based security breach. This shockingly large number means that often, the cause of email-based breaches are not for lack of organization-wide digital security.
In fact, a high number of these breaches are caused by an employee on the inside. Someone in the office unknowingly opens an unfamiliar email with an accompanying attachment. Such attachments would contain malicious software that could gain access to the information on your desktop, as well as on company servers.
Just opening an unfamiliar email is often not enough to cause damage – opening the accompanying, unknown attachment is where the real danger is – but it’s best practice not to open an unfamiliar email for the sake of safety and keeping the phishing and ransomware at bay.
Connecting to Public Wifi Frequently
Regularly connecting to free, public wifi is difficult to resist. It’s become the most natural thing, for many of us, to grab a seat at our favourite cafe with a much-needed cup, connect to the free public wifi, and get to work.
The problem with this is that with many people accessing the same wifi network, whether secured or not, we become vulnerable to hackers who are also connected to the network. It leaves us vulnerable when we feel relaxed. The wisest decision would be to not connect our devices to public wifi networks at all, but sometimes it can’t be avoided. At the very least, try not to log on to online banks or social media accounts, so as to keep your sensitive data safe.
Neglecting Security Updates and Anti-Virus Software
This may sound obvious, but failing or neglecting to install anti-virus software and keeping our safety features updated makes us vulnerable online.
This isn’t just the case for laptops and desktops, but antivirus software is necessary on your smartphone, too. Symantec has issued warning to Android users to keep away from a malicious app that hides itself on your phone or tablet, running in the background while you’re none the wiser.
Keeping updated with antivirus software is a step in the right direction to keep even your smartphone free of malicious software and invasive online forces.
Being aware of these actions, or habits, that we tend to fall into while connected means that you can stop yourself before allowing your devices and you from becoming vulnerable.