It’s easier for predatory animals (lions, wolves, bears, hawks, etc.) to hunt their preys on open grounds with fewer or no places to hide. And this scenario is no different for us when we are online. The moment we get on the Internet, we place ourselves on a hunting patch where cybercriminals lay hidden in plain sight. And by exposing ourselves (our information, to be precise) we are no less than those preys waiting to be devoured by the predators.
The paranoia of constantly being in the crosshair of cybercriminals might be pessimistic but it is as true as the air we breathe. If our computer or smartphone hasn’t been hacked today, it does not mean that they won’t be in the future. As the Internet becomes our constant companion, the risk of it drawing unwanted attention from hackers and malware cannot be overseen. Constant vigilance is the key if we want to stay safe in the world of digitalization. And this should start with a prudent approach of sharing our information on the Internet.
The following will give you an idea about the 5 ways in which we are sharing too much information online and what you can do about it.
1. Pouring your heart out on social media
Put up a status update on your Facebook page and swoosh! It’s out there for everyone to see. But, are we careful about what we are sharing on social media? If your privacy settings are shaky, then you could be risking yourself to threats such as identity theft (criminals impersonating you) or a burglary in your house (criminals might locate your home address). Furthermore, posting inappropriate content may also make any future job opportunities slim (yes, recruiters keep a watch on social media profiles of potential employees).
• Avoid posting any personal information on social media
• Select your audience as ‘Friends’ instead of ‘Public’ unless you are sure what you are posting is okay to be made public.
2. Bingeing on Free Wi-Fi
One of the many things that brighten up the day is free Wi-Fi. Oh, what fun! But, at what price? Public Wi-Fi is called so because anyone (including hackers) can access it. And any information you send or receive over such networks can be intercepted by anyone with a fair amount of knowledge about hacking. For instance, if you are shopping online over an unsecured Wi-Fi connection, a hacker can place themself between you and the shopping portal, spying on all your information. This hacking technique is known as man-in-the-middle attack (MiTM).
• Avoid using open Wi-Fi networks (that do not ask for any kind of authentication such as login ID, passwords, etc.) for accessing websites where you need to provide sensitive information like usernames, passwords, PIN, bank details, etc.
• Even if you do get a network that asks for you to log in first, confirm its authenticity from the provider.
• As an added safety measure, you can use a virtual private network (VPN). It is service that routes your activity through a separate secure, private network and reduces the risk of a man-in-the-middle attack.
3. Responding to unknown emails
Unsurprisingly, email remains the most popular tool that hackers use to trap their victims. One skillfully crafted email bearing an urgent tone, something like ‘Your ATM is locked. Share your PIN and card number for security verification’, is good enough to trick an unsuspecting user into sharing this crucial piece of information with the scammer. This classic technique is called phishing and it has been laying waste to many businesses and individuals since long.
• Do not respond to unwanted, unknown or unexpected emails that ask you to download attachments or click on links.
• Even if such emails seem familiar, call up the sender and verify the situation first.
• Mark such emails as ‘spam’ or delete them from your inbox.
4.Bad password hygiene
While we are readily embracing all possible benefits that the Internet delivers, our password hygiene still remains primitive – predictable and weak. Passwords can be more complicated than love for most people. Jokes aside, using simple passwords so that you can remember them without breaking a sweat means risking your accounts to hackers. What’s worse is using one password for multiple accounts because if a hacker cracks it, they won’t take much long to hack into the rest of your accounts.
• Choose your password that is a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters (symbols).
• If a complicated password is difficult to remember, then try this – take the first letter of every word of your favorite movie, actor’s name, poem or so, and add some numbers and symbols to it. For instance, I take ‘Call of the Hundred Birds’ and my password could be CotHb@#149. Easy to remember!
• Use different passwords for different accounts (especially those where you have provided your personal information).
5. Filling out forms (online and physical)
Your name, phone number, and email ID might seem as plain information to you but these are gold for marketers, more so for scammers. When was the last time you filled out a feedback form for your usual movie theater? Or, did you just recently fill out an online form to receive the services from a website (a PDF download, accessing an article, etc.)? Sharing your information this way might not be always harmful unless you know how this information is being shared or used.
• While filling up any such forms (online or otherwise), consider using a fictitious name, email ID, and phone number.
• Provide your actual details only if necessary and when you are certain that the information will be used without affecting your privacy.
Technology and the Internet have come a long way in bettering our lives in myriad ways. It’s easy to lose track of how we act or what we do on the Internet every day and sometimes this provides cyberthieves a window of opportunity. But, following some simple precautions such as the ones listed here, should keep us out of harm’s way.
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Reference – www.mashable.com