We’ve all done it. Clicking on “Agree” without reading the terms (and installing some great malware). Doing a little online shopping while using free public WiFi. Downloading files from sketchy websites. And, of course, creating easy-to-guess passwords, because “no one is interested in hacking my accounts.” Don’t worry. You’re not alone. But that doesn’t mean you should keep justifying your risky online actions.
Breaking bad online habits (and replacing them with good ones)
While there are countless ways you can put yourself in trouble online, these 20 dangerous Internet habits are too common to be ignored. So let’s roll up our sleeves and fix them one by one.
1. Using the same password for everything
Never do that. If a hacker somehow manages to get that single password you use for every login, they will have no trouble accessing all of your online accounts. So don’t be lazy and think of a strong, unique password each time you create a new account, especially for banking or shopping sites. You can also get a reliable password manager to help you remember all your unique passwords.
2. Ignoring antivirus updates
You, me, and the majority of users find software updates annoying as they tend to pop up exactly when you don’t have time to deal with them. So what you normally do, is hit the “Postpone” button thinking you will get back to it later. But you never do.
Keeping antivirus/antimalware programs up-to-date is crucial to make sure your device stays protected from malicious threats. If you don’t feel like checking for updates regularly, just enable your applications to do it automatically.
3. Having too many browser extensions
There are tons of extensions that claim to improve your browsing experience, but do you really need them all? The thing is, the more extensions and plugins you have in your browser, the riskier it gets. If you aren’t careful, you may easily download an extension that is aimed at collecting your data or even worse – infecting your device with malware.
So choose your extensions wisely – get only those that can help you with daily tasks and protect your privacy.
4. Not using two-step authentication
Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to your account and is available on many account-based services, including Gmail, Google Drive, Apple’s iCloud, Twitter, and Facebook. I personally don’t see any reason not to use it.
5. No lock screen protection
Unless you take your phone everywhere you go, without leaving it unattended even for a tiny second, you simply must use some sort of lock screen protection: pattern, PIN code, or password.
If you don’t lock your screen, anyone can install malware or spyware on your phone without you noticing. Also, enable remote location and wiping if possible, so that if someone nabs your phone, you can erase all your private information remotely.
6. No computer password
People store much more private and sensitive information on their computers than anywhere else but often do nothing to protect it. Don’t make it easy for someone to install spyware or steal your private information. Put a password on your computer and lock it when you leave—even for a few minutes.
7. No antivirus and anti-malware
While ignoring antivirus updates is a bad idea, not having any software that protects you from malicious threats is even worse. Therefore, now it would be a perfect time to do some research and get yourself reliable antivirus and antimalware programs. On top of that, install a VPN as well for an extra layer of protection and always keep those three updated.
8. Uploading files to the cloud as they are
You really need to save those precious GBs on your device’s storage, so you sync your files to the cloud. If you think that your data is safe while sitting comfy in the cloud… Well, it’s not. Cloud companies can access your files if they want. Also, they are vulnerable to cyber attacks and data breaches, which may put your sensitive data in the wrong hands. You can avoid that by encrypting your files before uploading them to the cloud to keep your secrets private no matter what. Easy-to-use data encryption tools, such as NordLocker, will help.
9. Clicking on links in strange emails
A lot of hacking and malware is successful because people open emails they receive from random strangers. This is known as phishing, and it happens to more people than one could expect. The purpose of phishing emails is to lure users into visiting fake websites. From there, hackers can easily install malware on their victim’s device or steal their passwords, credit card details, and other private information.
So the lesson here is simple: if you don’t know or trust the source, don’t click the link.
10. Downloading attachments without thinking
While we’re at it—don’t download any sketchy attachments either. If you don’t know the sender, just don’t click on anything in the email you’ve received. This is especially true if you’re at work, as hackers can gain access to your company’s sensitive files.
11. Using HTTP sites
If you haven’t paid attention to the website URL when browsing the Internet, you should start doing it. HTTP in the prefix of the address indicates that your connection is not secure, meaning that snoopers can see the data you share with that website. That is especially dangerous for online payments and cases when you need to provide personal information. To stay on the safe side, only browse sites that use an SSL-encrypted connection, indicated by HTTPS.
If for some reason you need to visit unprotected websites, enable the NordVPN extension first. It will secure your HTTP traffic with strong encryption.
12. Checking your bank account on public WiFi
This one is especially painful since we all love free WiFi. However, public wireless networks usually lack proper protection, leaving their users open to man-in-the-middle attacks and other nefarious ways for hackers and snoopers to get your information.
When on public WiFi, don’t check any sensitive information, especially if it’s work- or money-related. Or better still – get yourself a VPN and keep your communications safe even on public WiFi.
13. Clicking on virus warning pop-ups
When visiting certain websites, you may face threatening pop-ups claiming to have found malware or viruses on your computer. Don’t click on them as they will more often than not try installing malware or adware on your device.
14. Using “123456” as your password
While we all know that we need stronger, better passwords to keep our data safe, the most common passwords found in data breaches are “password” and “123456.” Don’t become a victim of cybercrime – get creative and think of a good, uncrackable password that will keep your data safe from prying eyes.
I know this is hard, as you need to use a selection of weird symbols, numbers, and associations. But don’t worry – this guide will help you to create a good password in no time.
15. Downloading files from sketchy sites
Downloading free pirated movies, games, and programs is not cool at all, and it’s one of the easiest ways to get yourself malware. Be very careful on sites you don’t trust, even better – don’t go there at all.
16. Weak WiFi password
If you don’t have a strong password on your home WiFi, you may be susceptible to easy hacking. If cybercriminals hack your network, they can snoop on you and collect your private information.
One of the best ways to create (and more importantly – remember) your passwords is to use passphrases. You can use the words of that song that you like, or come up with an original phrase and then shorten it, using special symbols and numbers. For instance: “I care about my privacy. My VPN provider is NordVPN” phrase could be converted to a very strong password “1camp.MVpiN”
17. Agreeing to all terms on software install
Reading terms and conditions every time you want to install a new app is a real pain, and I’m not surprised that you hit “Agree” without bothering to look at what’s written there. However, you should try to make reading those terms a new habit.
By agreeing to the terms without reading them, you may be allowing the software to do pretty nasty things: collect information about you, listen to your conversations, installing Trojans, viruses, malicious adware, and much much more.
18. Dismissing privacy concerns
If you have a feeling someone may be watching you through your webcam, you are not paranoid. Things like snooping, webcam hacking, and location tracking happen every day, but we are still not used to taking all the warnings seriously.
If you suspect someone is accessing your webcam without your consent, don’t ignore your sixth sense. Better read this article to find out if your camera has been hacked, and take some steps to get out of this mess.
19. Thinking your smartphone is inherently secure
As you probably take your phone everywhere you go, it knows you better than your diary or any living person. So why do you still keep it unprotected?
With so much sensitive information residing on your phone, securing your mobile traffic should be the first thing you do after you get a new phone. Start by managing your security settings, adding lock screen protection and downloading the NordVPN app for your iPhone or Android.
20. Not using a VPN when using public WiFi
We have already talked about the dangers of open WiFi networks, so why are you still on that free hotspot with no VPN protection?
As such hotspots can be easily hacked or spoofed by a cybercriminal, securing your connection with a VPN is simply a must. NordVPN protects your data with strong encryptionand has a bunch of extra security features to keep you safe from hackers, annoying ads, malware and other security threats.
Happy secure browsing!
Lewis Lambert Fox
Lewis is a content writer at NordVPN and a true explorer when it comes to cybersecurity. He’s always on a mission to examine the tech world through the lens of privacy and share his findings and useful tips with blog readers.