Cyber criminals are constantly finding new ways to steal your identity, recruit you to launder money across the world, and ruin your credit history without you knowing. Since these thieves are smart, we have to stay one step ahead. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to outsmart computer thieves.
Here are 10 ways you make yourself vulnerable to cyber attacks:
1. Forget to logout of social networking sites
On Facebook alone, there are more than 850 million active users each month. On average, most users have approximately 130 friends in their network. Neglecting to logout of social networks gives hackers the opportunity to release viruses that infect everyone on your friends list or worse, poach your personal information, steal your identity and sell it on the black market.
2. Include personal information on social networking sites
Although it may seem like a good idea to have your phone number, birthday or even current city identified on your social media profiles, it’s not. And if you’re part of the 25% of users that don’t even bother with privacy controls, identifying this information can have dire consequences. A mediocre net criminal only needs to access your name and birthday from a social networking site to steal your identity and start creating debt for you.
3. Use “freebie” USB drives
Let’s face it, everybody loves free stuff, but all freebies are not created equal. More specifically, USB drives are cheap and used by companies to distribute information about their products and services at trade shows and other venues. The issue here is the possibility of those USB drives being infected with viruses. This likelihood increases because you simply don’t know where that USB drive has been before it reaches you.
4. Accept $10,000 from an international prince
Although warnings about these money laundering scams have been around for a while, there are still plenty of people giving out their bank account number to unknown individuals in the hopes of making some fast cash. These are active attempts to enlist unsuspecting victims to transfer illegal money for credit card thieves. It never turns out how it’s presented in those “easy as 1-2-3” emails.
5. Use free/public wireless networks
It doesn’t matter whether you are using a laptop, tablet device or smartphone, it can be hacked by net thieves very easily while you are making use of those convenient free Wi-Fi or unsecured public Internet services. Although computer networks remain the traditional target for cyber attacks, increasingly powerful tablets and smartphones with wireless connections are new opportunities for Internet attacks.
6. Access public cloud computing services
As more companies take advantage of cheap public cloud computing services, it inevitably gives employees the opportunity to more easily work remotely. Unfortunately, these services are juicy targets for a hacker’s aim. It’s not just companies that are at risk, it’s the employees accessing these cloud services, too.
7. Embrace BYOD on the job
The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend has led to increased productivity and efficiency for employees and companies alike. The problem is a lack of security protocols implemented by the companies embracing BYOD policies. Because people use their mobile devices as they would PCs, users are similarly susceptible to web-based attacks.
8. Ignore software updates
I know, the message that there’s a software update typically seems to come at a really inconvenient time, but not taking the few minutes to update your security software makes your computer, tablet and smartphone vulnerable to hackers and viruses. The updates come often for a reason, and frequently it’s to protect you from looming cyber threats.
9. Use the same password for multiple accounts/devices
Passwords are a great defense against cyber thieves; however, if you’re using the same password for multiple accounts and devices, you’re helping net criminals and hurting yourself. Additionally, if your passphrases don’t include numbers, letters and punctuation marks, it only takes a few minutes to crack those passwords and unlock the keys to your identity castle.
10. Access “trusted” third party sites
These attacks originated in recent years and frequently come in the form of emails from recognizable companies, banks or organizations that tempt the reader to open a link. These emails may look very similar to those you’ve recently received from your bank and financial institution — but don’t be fooled. Internet thieves copy the look and feel of these messages and even replicate the locked padlock symbol.