Tech news is continually abuzz with security warnings, hack updates, and consumer warnings. Malicious individuals can steal your identity, hijack your accounts, spend your funds, and discover sensitive personal data when you don’t keep your online activity in check. Enough is Enough, an Internet safety organization funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, posted statistics revealing that 15% of social media users in the U.S. have never checked their account privacy and security settings. Poor passwords, downloads, link clicking, and privacy setting awareness can make vulnerable to digital attacks. Here are 13 major signs that you aren’t browsing the Internet safely, and how to improve your privacy protection.
Lax Password Strategies
1. Weak Passwords
Avoid single word passwords like “password” or “login” because they can be easy to guess or crack with malicious software. Mix things up by using uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, punctuation, and phrases with a variety of words. You can also use apps like 1Password to generate scrambled passwords for you, so that you don’t have to rack your brain every time a password update is needed.
2. Unsecured Wi-Fi Networks
Without a password protecting your home Wi-Fi network, hackers can snoop on your online traffic and even pull data you enter into web pages, such passwords and credit card information. This became a concern for Tumblr app users in July 2013, when the company issued an update to address a security vulnerability that allowed cyber criminals to sniff out passwords over public Wi-Fi networks. Be sure to set up a secure password for your home Wi-Fi network.
3. Strange Credit and Banking Activity
People who continually use weak or old passwords may discover that their financial accounts have been compromised. Contact your credit or banking institutions immediately if you notice unusual charges and update your password.
4. Hijacked Social Media
If your social media password is weak, then you might notice spammy posts appearing on your newsfeed or in your private messages. If you noticed unauthorized changes to your accounts or correspondences that you haven’t posted yourself, then change your password using the password security tips discussed at the beginning of this list.
Not Checking Links
5. Unfamiliar Websites
Microsoft describes how email phishing scams post as legitimate organizations to misdirect users into clicking links to malicious websites. Carefully examine the website address before you click a link.
6. Spam pop-ups
Malicious links often take users to websites full of advertising. Diligently avoid strange links and use an in-browser advertising blocker, such as Ad Block, to prevent pop ups for slipping through.
7. Not Recognizing Malicious Websites
Some malicious websites look legitimate, which can sometimes make them difficult to detect. Some warning signs to watch out for include unusual URL components (like “TheFacebook” rather than “Facebook”), disjointed web layouts, a new or unusual company logo, unusually abundant advertising, and poor use of grammar.
8. Unfamiliar Sign-In Processes
Malicious sites sometimes pose as popular web services, such as Facebook, so that users will unwittingly provide their username or password in the sign-in form. Carefully examine the URL to make sure you’re visiting the correct website and avoid signing in if the web page layout or form questions seem unusual.
9. Invasive Questionnaires
If you’re misdirected by a bad link, you might find yourself on a website posing as a legitimate organization asking for personal information. Close the page immediately if you are not 100% sure of the website’s authenticity.
Ignoring Privacy Settings
10. Unsolicited Communications
If you don’t restrict your personal contact information on social media, just about anyone can post on your profile, send you emails, or call you. To prevent unwanted communications, examine your social media privacy settings and restrict your public visibility.
11. Posts with Unusual URLs
Spam accounts that you’ve added as friends on social media might be able to post dangerous links on your feeds. This is why it is extremely important to friend people you know and avoid unrecognizable accounts. Avoid clicking on URLs that appear to be spelled incorrectly or contain scrambled letters and numbers.
12. Friend Requests from Strangers
Privacy settings also control how you appear in public social media search listings. Your profile might be too easy to find if you start getting multiple friend requests from strangers. Avoid adding these strangers on platforms like Facebook, because then they’ll be able to view your photos, newsfeed, and other personal information.
13. Unauthorized Tags
You might discover that you’ve been tagged in social media images and conversations that you don’t wish to be associated with. You can request to verify tags on Facebook in advance.
Many people share far more than they intend to while browsing the Internet because they fail to protect their online accounts with strong passwords, privacy settings, and link-checking. You can become less vulnerable by rotating strong passwords on a regular basis, avoiding suspicious links, and taking an active role in customizing your security settings for online accounts. These periodic changes can go a long way in helping you protect your digital privacy.
Featured photo credit: Young man using tablet computer in coffee shop via shutterstock.com