By now, most of us have gotten used to the idea of being “open” online. We freely exchange information over email, post content to social media, and peruse websites with reckless abandon, assuming there are security and privacy measures in place to protect us from any unseen dangers.
However, these habits — especially when adopted by newcomers to the Internet — can have devastating consequences if taken advantage of by cybercriminals. What does being “too open” look like?
It starts with being reckless with the information you share and how you share it. Failing to safeguard your device’s data could make it easier for cybercriminals to gain access to your device, install malware or ransomware — or worse, expose your personal information to third parties with ill intent, giving them free reign to take over your identity.
Being too open also means exposing sensitive personal information online in a permanent way, which could result in consequences ranging from receiving more spam emails to losing future job opportunities.
Of course, nobody’s perfect when it comes to online security, but you can do yourself some favors by avoiding these behaviors whenever possible.
1. Using public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi networks are inherently insecure. Because anybody can access the same public hotspot, any information you send or receive over a public Wi-Fi connection could be vulnerable to prying eyes. That means any emails you send or passwords you enter could be intercepted by malicious third parties on the same network.
How to protect yourself: Limit your use of public Wi-Fi and be aware of the risks involved. Make sure your chosen hotspot is a legitimate connection, and avoid using sites that provide access to sensitive financial information or using your personal email when surfing the web on public Wi-Fi.
2. Giving out personal information via email
Email is still one of the most popular modes of communication, despite being around for more than 20 years and now competing with texts, IMs, and social media messaging platforms. It’s tempting to use email when exchanging personal information like passwords because it’s so convenient, but this can leave you at risk. Even if you’re completely certain your connection is safe, you don’t know that your recipient’s is, and that means your passwords and sensitive personal information could be compromised.
How to protect yourself: Don’t include anything in an email you wouldn’t be okay with someone else reading. Additionally, whenever possible, you should use a secure email service that offers a higher level of protection.
3. Posting too freely on social media
Social media gives you a platform to show off your life; however, depending on your privacy settings and the actions of your connections, these posts can be seen by the wrong people. It’s possible to inadvertently expose private or sensitive information to criminals that can lead to a physical break-in at your home or an attack on your digital identity.
What’s more, posting questionable content could also squander future opportunities if you aren’t careful.
How to protect yourself: Don’t post anything on social media you’re not willing to make public, and as an added safety measure, double check all your privacy settings to make sure they’re to your liking.
4. Filling out online forms
Most sites these days ask you for some kind of personal information, whether that’s an email address to gain full access to the webpage or even more extensive personal details. These aren’t inherently dangerous — most are actually very trustworthy — but if you aren’t careful, your personal information could be used for questionable purposes or be sold to email advertisers.
How to protect yourself: Be aware of the sites you’re using, and remain well-informed of how your information is being used. Most legitimate sites will have disclaimers and privacy policies that explain how your personal information can and will be used.
5. Using weak or repetitive passwords
Complicated passwords are hard to remember, so most people opt for simpler alternatives and tend to use these simple passwords over and over. However, doing so can leave your data vulnerable to attack. Hackers can easily guess simple passwords, and once they know them, they can apply them to sites all over the Internet to gain even more access to your personal accounts.
How to protect yourself: Make sure all your passwords are strong, with a mix of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Use different passwords for every site, and remember to change them periodically.
6. Accepting privacy policies without reading them
How to protect yourself: At the very least, skim the privacy policies you accept and become familiar with how various organizations track your activities and information online.
Online security starts with you
Our lives are filled with seemingly innocuous habits that can increase your vulnerability to hackers and cybercriminals who may abuse your personal information, hold your device hostage, or even damage your personal reputation.
As you’ve seen, avoiding these habits isn’t especially difficult or complicated; instead, a handful of basic precautions can protect you from most attacks. If you’re interested in stepping up your cybersecurity even further, be sure to check out Chase’s Fraud Security page with advice that can help ensure the safety of your personal information.