Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

By Viktoria Kolyhan

We’re all creatures of habit. We seem to repeat certain things each and every day that we find enjoyable, like watching certain TV programs, going to a health club or cycling around the neighborhood, weather permitting. Whatever the task is, we wake up with enjoyable anticipation that it’s a new day to do what we personally enjoy.

On the other hand, we all do some things each day that aren’t exactly harmless, and they have to do with getting on a computer or other device and logging on to the Internet. Instead of being harmless, this common activity that we daily makes us vulnerable to cybercrooks and other bad actors who just can’t wait until we all log on to the Internet. The key is to know what things we are doing online that make us all vulnerable, so we can avoid doing them.

Avoid Phishing and Email Scams

Here’s one of the biggest culprits – phishing and email scams. How many times have you opened an unsolicited email from someone you just don’t recognize? If you’re like the rest of the population, it happens a lot. In fact, in 2019 Americans filed 60 million identity theft complaints, and most of them started by opening an email, answering a phone call or responding to a text.

The minute you click on something embedded in the email, malware is downloaded to your computer and the hacker has an entry point to your data. Sadly, it happens far too often. Once they’re in, they can steal your personal and financial data.

Before opening that email or text, or answering a call from someone you connected with on social media, check out the person who you’re connecting with. Use Nuwber, an online tool used to verify and validate a person’s true identity, and if it doesn’t match up to who they claim they are, end all communication at once.

Pass on the Same Old Passwords

When a password is hacked, your computer or device becomes an open door, and everything inside is compromised. Experts claim you need a 10-digit password, one that includes numbers and letters and/or symbols, and also that you need a unique password for every application or online account.

For most of us, that would be impossible to manage, so there are software tools available to generate the complex passwords and manage them when needed. For a really good password manager that’s available for free, use LastPass. For paid software, check out Keeper.

Start Using VPNs

If you frequent coffee shops or other public spaces to use your device on the Internet, get a VPN – a Virtual Private Network to use. Do not use the public Wi-Fi because everyone and anyone can see what you’re doing on the Internet and can gain access to your passwords and data. A VPN keeps your web activity safe and secure, without the risk of being hacked. Good free VPN tools include HotSpot Shield, and good paid tools include TorGuard and TunnelBear. They’re all easy to use and offer good protection.

Stop Using Autofill

Autofill makes filling out forms and applications online easy, but that repetitive data that often includes personal and financial data (like credit card info) is easy to hack. Turn off “autofill” and enter it manually. Yes, it takes more time, but it’ll keep you safe!

Forget Unsecure Websites

Shopping for something special? Never go on a website with a URL that doesn’t have an “S” in the opening letters: “HTTPS.”  The “S” means it’s a secure website, unlike the “HTTP” which is not. If you’re ordering something or applying for a credit card, never use an HTTP site. This is a situation where it pays to be safe, not sorry.

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