You likely use the internet daily, but do you ever stop and think about how? Are you aware that some behaviors make your real and online identity vulnerable? How about the dozens of online accounts you depend on for work, gaming, or your finances?
Some behaviors unnecessarily put you at risk. Here’s what they are and how to avoid them for more carefree browsing.
Not Updating Your Software
Most of us aren’t diligent when it comes to updating, which is why you should automate it. A fresh version of your operating system, browser, antivirus/antimalware, and all your software and apps ensures you have cutting-edge protection. Plus, you always get the newest features, too.
Not Paying Attention to Website Security & Trustworthiness
It’s natural to want to find workarounds or cheaper versions of something. Hackers know this and will frequently set up websites that tempt you with amazing deals and exclusive offers. More often than not, viruses, stolen credit card information, and embarrassment will be your only rewards.
Taking some basic precautions can help. First, check whether the address you’re on starts with HTTPS and has a lock icon. These indicate that any data you and the site transfer remains secure. Sites starting with HTTP are prone to data theft. Additionally, try to find reputable site user reviews on aggregates like TrustPilot.
Short & Similar Passwords for Your Accounts
People want to get account creation over with ASAP and often type anything into the password field. Common gems like “asdfg” fall in less than a second. Other short passwords aren’t much better, especially if you keep reusing them on several accounts. Finding out the login details for one such account through a data breach is all it takes to compromise the rest.
Unique and complex passwords are the way to go! Password managers make setting them up a breeze. They can generate endless new passwords, and you can specify the length and character sets these will use. Managers store the passwords in secure vaults; not even their providers know their contents.
You can sync up all your devices and even check whether old passwords & emails were ever part of data breaches and other security threats.
Connecting to the Internet Carelessly
You don’t have to seek out sketchy sites or blab about your security question answers to be in danger. Each time you connect to public Wi-Fi, there’s a possibility that someone is monitoring the connection. Cybercriminals will even set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots to get you to go online. Anything you type while such a connection is live is up for grabs – account details, CC info – the works.
Not using public Wi-Fi is a tough habit to break, so augment it with a new one and install a VPN. Turning the VPN on initiates an anonymous, encrypted connection. All the data you exchange passes through a tunnel neither crooks nor ISPs see. There are many of them in the market, so make sure to check Reddit’s VPN comparison table before subscribing to a provider.
Not Using Two-Factor Authentication
Complex passwords are almost impossible to bypass. They’re also easy to steal if you’re careless. Further securing all important accounts with 2FA offers considerably more peace of mind.
Two-factor authentication prevents unauthorized logins from new devices or locations. You’ll have to provide another code you get via SMS or the authenticator app first. Someone who got your account details from a data breach won’t have access to your phone and can’t enter. 2FA will still let you know about the attempt, giving you time to change the email and password.
Not Using Ad Blockers
The average website now displays far too many advertisements for us to enjoy its content or even appreciate the individual ad. Worse yet, cyber crooks can hijack legitimate ads and have them redirect you to dangerous websites; that’s why ad blockers come in handy.
Some consider ad blockers controversial, but they’re a legitimate tool for more productive and stress-free browsing. Besides, you can always whitelist websites you’d like to support.
Google might be phasing them out soon, but cookies remain an internet staple until then. Cookies are files your browser creates whenever they interact with most sites. They’re generally harmless, and first-party cookies are necessary for elements like logins and shopping carts to work correctly.
Third-party cookies are another matter. Advertisers use them to show you ads they think you’d enjoy. Such cookies follow you from site to site and help advertisers get a sense of your buyer persona. You should opt out of third-party cookies and regularly clear your browser’s cache to remain anonymous.
Having Too Many Add-Ons
Even the most advanced browsers can’t account for all the features users need. That’s why add-ons are so convenient. They do everything from turning sites dark for easier nighttime reading to letting you change the playback speed of any embedded video & much more.
Still, it’s best to exercise moderation when it comes to add-ons. Browsers already consume lots of resources, especially RAM, and having dozens of active add-ons will only slow your device down further. The more you have, the likelier the chance of creators abandoning their add-ons. Once they stop receiving updates, such add-ons can quickly become security risks.
The internet’s marvelous opportunities come at the cost of an increasing number and variety of ever more sophisticated dangers. Fortunately, by being aware of the risks and proactively following our recommendations, you can continue to take advantage of its benefits safely.