A cyber-attack can happen to anyone, including you. We are sometimes ignorant and disregard this problem as something that is highly unlikely to happen. As a matter of fact, over the years these online attacks largely increased and they are not targeting companies or organizations only, but individuals as well. That means you could be a potential target.
Our online safety is directly correlated with our internet habits. The things we do (or don’t do) are a factor in becoming a cyber-victim. Many times without realizing it, we make the wrong choices. Weak passwords, forgotten updates, or clickbait ads infected with malware. These things are our fault. Sometimes, you might not even be aware that you are doing it.
Check out these red flags that you definitely need to avoid if you don’t want to become a cyber-attack victim. The following warnings might easily put you in danger of losing important data, sensitive information, and your finances. So make sure you do your best to fix them.
Four warnings that might expose you to cyber-criminals
Problem: Your Passwords
Do you use the same password for all of your accounts? Or maybe you thought it would be for the best if you think of something easy and more personal for a password in case you forget it? If you say that you haven’t done this at least once, you would be lying. We all have.
Many times people use something easy to remember, without too many mixtures of letters and numbers, or when they do this, they use something personal, like a birthday, children’s names, a loved one, etc. Some people are so lazy that they put consecutive numbers for a password, for example, 12345678, or one of the worst things you can do, use the word password to be your actual password. You’ve got to admit this is definitely easy to remember, but it’s also very predictable.
There are a few red flags here.
For starters, anyone can guess your password and gain control of your accounts.
Another way is through a data breach, something that has significantly increased in the last year. In this large corporate data breached, millions of users get exposed. Then, the people who got access to the information will sell it to the dark markets, and they might fall into the hands of other dangerous people.
But with both of these cases, what’s even worse is that with a single password, a cyber-criminal can endanger all of your profiles, if you use the same one for every account.
Some things are just out of your hands. You cannot know whether a website will be exposed to a data breach, and where this information will go. You can always be precautious where you leave your personal information, but this is never a guarantee. For example, as the latest Facebook breach happened and compromised the information of around 90 million of its users, probably no one predicted this outcome.
However, there is something that is entirely in your control and you need to consider it.
For starters, make sure that you use a strong password. Combine capital letters and numbers in the password. You can use full sentences or for example song lyrics. It’s highly unlikely that you will forget a quote or a part of your favorite song. If you want an even better solution, use password generators. That way you will get a fully randomized password that no one will guess. But make sure you write it down somewhere because these are usually very hard to remember.
Moreover, use separate passwords for every account. Never use the same one on your Facebook and, for example, your bank account.
Last, but not least, change your passwords regularly, and use a double authentication. It’s best if you change them every three months or less. When it comes to the two-factor authentication, this is something that al usually overlooked by users when it shouldn’t be. Even if hackers obtained your account credentials, they won’t be able to log in without the second authentication, which usually means a code that was sent to your phone.
Problem: Malicious Ads and Spam Emails
We are too ashamed to admit, but each and every one of us has at least once clicked on a shady advertisement on the internet. It was a too-good-to-be-true offer or a generous discount on something you liked. There is one rule on the internet – if it’s too good to be true, then it’s too good to be true. Many times these ads are a source of malicious viruses. Usually, you click on a link, and a program secretly installs on your device, infecting it with ransomware. There have been so many cases of this type, especially in the last year or two.
Similar to this, you can also infect your device by opening a spam email. Not only this, but you can also be tricked by scammers to give credit card information or sent a certain amount of cash, expecting something in return. You are probably familiar with one of the most largely-known scam stories, about a certain Nigerian prince who is willingly giving away a share of his fortune to you. Or emails that you are the winner of a large sum of money, even though you never applied for such a thing.
There are so many tricks that can convince you in giving away personal information or your money. Some are obvious, others can fool even the best of us. Therefore, be extremely precautious.
As with many things in life, one of the best ways to protect yourself from something is to have the proper knowledge to do so. In this case, the most useful thing you can do is to learn how to recognize these phishing attacks. You should always click on trustworthy links and websites and open emails only from familiar senders. Don’t be naïve and open things that promise you a prize or a great deal. And never ever give your money or personal information to shady spammers over the internet.
Another way would be to use an Open DNS, a technology that filters the web and prevents malicious website to appear on your network.
Problem: Lack of Security Software & Updates
Your default security software won’t do if you truly want to protect yourself and your personal information. We often don’t pay attention to these things, and instead of purchasing a decent software that will keep us safe, we usually get free ones that are far from enough. Sometimes it’s not even the lack of software that is the problem, but our negligence of it. Yes, the pop-up notification telling you it’s time to update your software are incredibly annoying, but they are just keeping an eye on you. Many times a cyber-attack can occur just because you haven’t updated your software, and the hacker used its vulnerability in the right moment.
It’s obviously much better to prevent a cyber-attack from happening than to later have to deal with it. To do so, you need to equip your device with the proper technology.
One of the first things is installing a firewall and a good antivirus if you don’t already have them on your device. If you do, make sure they are enabled.
The firewall acts as a security gate on your device, which allows only the good websites to pass through it. Besides, you can decide what gets in and what stays out.
An antivirus might be the crucial thing in this whole story, as it will block all potential viruses from accessing your computer or treat them after you’ve been infected. That is, of course, if you have a good one. Free antiviruses might help you with simpler threats, but to avoid becoming a victim to a cyber-attack, you need to get yourself an advanced one. Besides, most of the advanced antivirus software comes with a built-in firewall.
One of the most important things when it comes to your antivirus technology is to keep it updated all the time. This enhances your chances of staying protected.
To ensure maximum security and significantly lower the probability of a cyber-attack you should consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
VPNs can help by completely encrypting your traffic, preventing hackers and other third parties to trace your real IP address and compromise your device. They are powerful software that not only will keep you safe from cybercriminals but will also provide you a fully uncensored internet experience no matter where you are.
Problem: Using Public Wi-Fi
If you value your privacy and internet security, don’t ever use a public Wi-Fi again, especially when accessing more valuable information through your device. A public Wi-Fi means an unprotected internet connection on which everyone can see what you do. On the other hand, you can also run into a rogue hotspot. It’s a fake Wi-Fi hotspot, usually imitating a familiar name, such as the airport you are in or the coffee shop you stopped by at for a quick drink. You won’t notice the difference and log in to the network, where you will be monitored by the person who has set up the rouge hotspot.
It’s simple, sometimes all you need to do is be a little more precautious. If you really need to connect to the airport Wi-Fi or somewhere else and it’s urgent, don’t do this unless you have a VPN installed on your device.
VPNs also help with this problem. They will encrypt your traffic and change your ID address, so even if someone is trying to monitor you, they won’t be able to harm you in any way. The best thing you can do is set the VPN to activate every time you connect to the internet. This way you are not leaving any space for the cyber criminals to use the downtime before your VPN connects.
Overall, if you do or don’t do some of the things that were mentioned above, you now have a clear vision of how easy it is to fall a victim to a cyber-attack and what can be done to avoid this. Make sure you follow the suggestions and always stay alert, as the internet can be a truly dangerous place if you are not careful enough.