Protect Yourself Online and Avoid These Top 10 Privacy Mistakes

 Top 10 Privacy Mistakes

It's hard to not rely on the internet these days. Hearing some frightening cyber security statistics, however, might cause some hesitation. 

TechJury compiled statistics in which they reported that it is a cyberattack on the internet every 39 seconds. In March of 2021 alone, there were 20 million hacked records. As a result, it's unlikely you've never experienced at least one virus or letter from a company apologizing for their security breach.

Whether you are browsing the internet for personal or work reasons, you are always at risk of serious consequences. This list of the top 10 privacy mistakes will help you quit bad online habits and bolster the security of your sensitive information.

Top 10 Privacy Mistakes Internet Users Make

Most of us have heard the common internet safety rules over and over again. Some of these rules have become part of our usual practice, while others might have slipped away. You have to admit that some safety practices make your life more difficult or might be beyond your understanding of technology.

The biggest privacy mistake of all, however, is the choice not to take internet safety seriously.

Whether we realize it or not, good and bad organizations are always monitoring our online behavior, mining personal data, and selling information about us to each other. Within seconds, hackers can access our accounts and use our data against us.

Once they've gained access, it's very difficult to take any actions against them quickly enough to salvage your data.

1. Same Dumb Password Since High School

We're looking at you, "hotrod1." You too, "password1234." There is a litany of mistakes you can make when creating a password for your accounts. 

Most internet users struggle to take password safety seriously because passwords are hard to remember. You also probably want to avoid writing them down or storing them somewhere that people can access them.

While your intentions are good, the results are very bad. Often, people will use the same password for hundreds of accounts to avoid writing down log-in information.

For less important accounts, such as websites that do not have e-commerce capabilities, your password might seem less important. Unfortunately, many people continue to use the same password for online banking, investment websites, e-commerce websites, and more. Using the same password for everything makes it easy for hackers to gain your log-in information from a less secure website and use that to access your financial information and bank accounts.

Suddenly, "password1234" isn't feeling too great anymore.

How To Secure Your Passwords

Many websites have taken to enforcing password rules. Often, you'll see requirements for a variation of lowercase and capital letters, numbers, and symbols. They'll also often urge you to use a unique password that doesn't include any personal information.

You must strengthen and vary your passwords, and you should throw out that old password from high school. The longer you use the same password, the more likely it is that it's already been leaked and bought by malicious actors. As a result, each time you use it again is another opportunity for them to access information about you.

Research the best ways to create strong passwords so that every future log-in is a secure one.

2. Connecting to Any Network Anywhere

We've all been in a situation where we desperately need WiFi and don't have our own. Maybe you're in a foreign country where you can't use your mobile data, or a huge storm has knocked out the power for days, and you need to work. Often, we run right to the nearest coffee shop or other local hot-spot to access the internet.

Using WiFi networks that aren't your own should give you pause. You may have pulled out all the stops to ensure safety and security on your home network, but you have no idea how secure other network connections are. Many businesses can offer free WiFi to guests but leave it unprotected by a password and lack of security measures. 

When you connect to WiFi at one of these businesses, you're opening your device up to other people on this network. With no password and no security measures on your own device, anyone can connect and retrieve your data. You also have no idea what kinds of data the network is storing, so the network owner could have access to sensitive information.

How to Protect Yourself on Other Networks

Be extremely careful if you're using these networks to conduct business transactions or log on to accounts with sensitive information. You'll practically be handing out your banking information to everyone in the store. It's best to completely avoid it.

Also, you should always choose the setting to manually approve networks before your device connects. Otherwise, every store you walk by with free WiFi will get access to your device.

If you must use public networks, there are a few steps to take to protect yourself. To begin, use a virtual private network (VPN). This tool allows you to create a personal network out of the public WiFi you're using so that you remain anonymous. 

You should also only log onto websites you know are completely secure and encrypted. Don't click on unknown sites you haven't used before, as you aren't sure if the information you send and receive is protected for your eyes only. 

3. Relying on Google (and Others)

Google is certainly the favored online search engine. According to Hubspot, Google gets 85% of all mobile traffic and takes up 70% of the search engine market share. Unfortunately, using companies like Google for your online searches means your data and identity are not private.

Google and the organizations that have websites listed on Google uses tracking tools like cookies to monitor your behavior and store information about you.

Of course, it's not only Google that holds these practices. Most search engines track your data so that they can improve their business. By searching online using these search engines, we implicitly allow them to do whatever they want to our personal information.

In addition, many people choose to accept prompts for allowing cookies and other tracking tools without reading the terms and conditions, opening the privacy policies, or regularly checking to clear out their browser. People even allow their web browser to save their passwords and keep personal information about them. 

How Can I Protect Myself From Greedy Search Engines?

Choose to search the web anonymously. You can use search engines built to keep your identity private and not store any information on your behavior. 

There are options to search anonymously using the web browser you have, too. These privacy options stop websites and search engines from collecting cookies, files, and history.

You can also carefully choose when you allow cookies to be used. Not all websites require that you enable cookies, so you don't need to feel compelled to accept them every time. Read the prompt closely, and don't be afraid to open up the terms and conditions and privacy notice to find out what happens when you accept. 

4. Plastering Your Life Online

While you may be thinking that you've never posted truly important information such as your address or phone number, you might have done so without your knowledge. Sometimes what we post online can give insight into our personal lives indirectly, and malicious actors can use these clues to piece together important information.

For example, people who post about their kid's schools suddenly reveal what neighborhood they live in and where their kids are during the day. 

Leaving a trail of breadcrumbs about your personal life can lead to identity theft. People who want to take over your accounts, regardless of reason, can do so easily with some hacking and research on your personal information. 

How Can I Keep My Personal Information Private?

Try researching yourself to see what you can find. This will allow you to see your online presence from an objective point of view. For example, can someone find your phone number because you've connected it to your Facebook account?

Finally, attempt to erase any personal information you can find that is public, or at least make it private. Nothing is full proof, but you should take all the measures to protect your identity.

5. Buying Products from Insecure Websites

Impulse shopping is an addiction for many, but you'll need to do your best to curb this bad habit on insecure sites. No matter how irresistible a product looks, you really shouldn't be buying from unknown websites. This is especially true if they do not have safety measures in place for the e-commerce process.

The last thing you need is for cybercriminals to gain access to all your credit card or bank account information because you chose to buy something on a fake website or an insecure website.

Protect Your Payment Methods

Stick to buying from major websites that you've had positive experiences with before or that you've properly vetted. For example, websites you know are safe such as Amazon will likely provide a safe and secure transaction. 

If you're on a new website, check for a couple of signs:

  • Is there a padlock sign next to the web address?
  • Does the web address start with "HTTPS"?
  • Does the website pop up with search results about scams and fraud?
  • Does the website have a lot of good reviews and a strong online presence?
  • Are you given proper signs of a secure e-commerce transaction?
  • Does the website provide contact information and look professional?

Asking these questions will help you identify legitimate websites, but you're still at risk. To be safe, use secure methods like Paypal, stick with credit cards, and keep an eye on your accounts after the purchase.

6. Downloading Without Checking

An easy way for hackers to gain access to your devices and network is to package viruses inside downloads. These downloads can come in the form of emails or as download buttons on websites. There are also fraudulent ads that can cause downloads.

Always check the validity of the provider and don't download anything without checking what it is.

7. Choosing Sketchy Websites

If you're researching a niche topic, it's easy to be presented with less-trafficked websites that may not be legitimate sources. When you're desperate for information, sometimes we take the risk of clicking on them. You should avoid this at all costs.

Malicious websites are created every day under the guise of legitimate sources of information. When you click on them, you'll end up downloaded viruses onto your computer. Always check the validity of these websites, even if they seem legitimate at first glance.

8. Running Old Software

If you're not updating your computer and applications regularly, you're opening yourself up to some huge risks. Tech and security companies are constantly working on an updated version of software and hardware so that they can protect you against cybercrimes. Each day, new attacks are created to get around old safeguards, so new software is constantly created to close up these flaws.

Always check for new updates and promptly use them to keep your devices safe from new cyber attacks.

9. Making Yourself Too Easy to Hack

One of the newer advancements in log-in technology is the two-factor authentication tool. Many websites are updating their sign-in pages to force you to validate your identity as you log in. This can come in the form of providing a separate phone number of email through which the website can send you a code.

A simple username and password are no longer enough to keep yourself safe. Always follow the prompts to add other channels of communication so that you can verify your identity and have options for account recovery in the event of a hack.

10. Browsing Unprotected

Finally, most laptops today come with packages you can buy for cyber security. That's because it's almost criminal to run your laptop without proper security measures. Using your web browser and performing daily tasks on your computer is extremely dangerous without the proper protection.

Use cybersecurity products that are proven to keep your data safe. They should be able to detect and block cyber crimes like ransomware attacks to protect you in the case of a mistake. You can choose products such as WiFi Pen testers, Web Scanners, and Vulnerability Scanners to keep your device safe.

Stay Private and Secure

Now that you know the top 10 privacy mistakes people make while online, you can quit bad searching habits and enact a plan to keep your identity and devices protected. Taking these steps will help you confidently make online transactions and use the internet for work and pleasure. 

SecPoint offers the best cyber security products to protect your privacy. Combined with good practices for online searches, you'll be safe and sound. Check out our blog today for more internet safety tips!