1. Having your pet’s name as a password
39% of pet owners in the U.S. have “used their pet’s name as part of their password for an online account.” according to a survey conducted by Aura. And in the world of social media, information like that is incredibly easy to get a hold of.
According to the Google analytics website Ahrefs, there are approximately 2,600 people searching for ‘password hacking’ advice daily. Perhaps one of the most talked-about habits that put people at risk of hacking is choosing a very easy-to-guess password and/or using one password for a multitude of logins.
From phishing to malware and just good old guessing, there are many ways a hacker can get hold of your password, especially if it’s something like your date of birth or your pet’s name. Using the same password for all your logins will give someone with ill intentions the ability to do a lot of damage.
To avoid this from happening, it is advised to create complex passwords that are hard to guess and have different variations for different logins. One way to keep track of a multitude of passwords is by using a password manager app.
Using multi-factor authentication systems is also arguably one of the most effective ways to protect your online accounts.
2. Not understanding phishing schemes
A whopping 53,000 people are searching monthly for what phishing means, and although we hear that term all the time when we look for information on how to protect ourselves online, for many people it’s still an enigma. The aim of phishing is to trick people into revealing their personal and confidential information, through the use of deceptive email messages or websites. A sister scheme of phishing is something called smishing, where the same deceiving tactics are being used via phone calls or SMS messages.
How can one spot phishing schemes? Read or listen carefully before you click or agree to share private information. If you think you might be the victim of a phishing scheme, separate yourself from the email or call and get in touch with the person or institution they are pretending to contact you from.
Example: Got an out-of-the-ordinary email from your boss telling you to click on a link? Double-check the email address and get in touch with your boss via other means to check the validity of that request before panicking and clicking the link.
3. Not using a VPN
Whilst public Wi-Fi can be a life saver, they do not require authentication access, which makes it easy for hackers to gain access to your data by using a technique called Man-in-the-Middle (MTM). These kinds of attacks work in a very simple way. As the name suggests, the hacker places himself between two parties that are trying to communicate. This allows them to intercept any messages you send or receive whilst also gaining the power to impersonate one of the parties.
A great way to protect yourself from falling victim to this attack is by using a VPN. How does it work? By redirecting your internet traffic in order to disguise your IP address which makes it impossible for hackers to track you. The information you send via the internet is therefore encrypted and it becomes unreadable.
4. Having a strong digital footprint
As mentioned previously, we live in the digital era where posting everything about your life online is normalised. However, when hackers get access to information such as your favorite café, date of birth, and the name of your pet, this can easily be used to decrypt your passwords, especially if you made poor password choices. These are some ways to reduce your digital footprint:
– Keep your social media private
– Unsubscribe from old email lists you have no interest in
– Turn off locations, social media advertisers, and face recognition
– Make your ‘friend requests’ options more secure
5. Not keeping everything updated
Whether we’re talking about your smart house alarm, phone or PC, technology is prone to being hacked. Companies are aware of that and are constantly finding new bugs and fixing them. So, in order to stay protected, you need to make sure that you download the latest versions of the software and apps you are using.
Furthermore, Forbes Advisor wants to emphasise that the best tools to protect yourself against hackers are through education and awareness. Whilst companies do their part in constantly updating their software, we need to do our part and learn about the most common tricks that can be used against us. A tip to remember is to have a child’s curiosity and ask yourself questions before rushing to click on a link or start sharing information with strangers. Questions such as ‘Is this the typical kind of email I receive?’, ‘Is the grammar correct both in the body of the mail and in the email address itself?’, ‘Would these institutions randomly call and ask for my personal information?’.
It takes less effort to double-check the validity and security of an email, link or phone call than it would take to fix the issue of being hacked.
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