There are many ways for cybercriminals to steal your personal information online. With criminals coming up with new methods for targeting your confidential data all the time, it is more important than ever to take steps to protect yourself.
Innovative digital platforms have provided us with so many opportunities to put ourselves online, be that on social media, while shopping, or downloading apps. However, you must be aware of the dangers that surround these seemingly harmless daily activities. As long as you follow a few simple security steps each time you go online, you’ll effectively protect yourself and your family from malicious cybercriminals.
Don’t Put Confidential Information Online
One of the simplest yet most overlooked ways of protecting yourself online is to avoid posting unnecessary personal information anywhere. Unless it is critical, try to keep identifying information about yourself offline as much as possible.
Once confidential information relating to you is posted, it cannot ever be removed, and cybercriminals are incredibly skilled at harvesting this data. If you have to share confidential information, like emailing your social security number to a new employer, take steps to encrypt it and send it via an e-mail attachment. This way, you protect your personal information as much as possible and hide it from potential hackers.
Always Use Strong Passwords
A strong password that’s tough to crack is essential to your online security. However, many people still use easy-to-guess passwords and use the same password across multiple sites. Regularly changing passwords is also easy to neglect, and all these things can leave you open to cybercriminals using your data maliciously.
It can be tricky to keep track of passwords nowadays, with most people having hundreds of them for varying sites. It’s often tempting to use the same password so that you can remember it. However, what this means is that if your password is found, hackers can access every single site you have used it on in just a few short clicks.
One option to make using strong passwords easier for you is to try something called a password manager. This securely stores all your passwords for various sites across the web. Also, make sure to set reminders to go through and change your passwords regularly.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
Another safety step you can take to protect your personal information online is called two-factor authentication. Also known as 2FA, it serves as another valuable layer of protection against cybercriminals looking to harvest your data.
If you sign in anywhere that requires 2FA, not only will you be required to enter a password, but you will also be prompted to complete an additional code or puzzle. Having this type of protection makes it more difficult for people to access your information. Where possible, choose sites that use this type of protection to ensure your personal data is as secure as possible.
Trust your gut instincts when it comes to the sites you choose to visit and share information on. In the real world, you might feel a strong urge to keep away from a dangerous area, so do the same thing when you’re browsing online.
Unsecured websites are easy targets for cybercriminals wanting to steal your information, especially those that will infect your system with malware. If something doesn’t seem right, or the site looks illegitimate, it’s best just to stay away.
Use Your Browser’s Privacy Settings
A lot of what you do online is accessible to marketers, as well as potential hackers. Marketing companies use your browsing history to direct personalized ads your way. They also do this through your social media activity.
However, this information can be accessed by cybercriminals too. To keep your personal data safe while browsing, it’s best to make use of your browsers’ highest privacy settings. Put in place as many privacy safeguards as you can on the sites you visit, especially social media platforms.
Use a Secure Connection
Consider using a VPN or virtual private network to secure your connection and protect yourself online. A VPN will hide your sensitive data, as well as your IP address. This can be especially helpful when shopping online as you tend to input confidential information such as payment and address details on these sites.
Only Shop on Secure Sites
With so much choice when it comes to shopping online, it’s easy to get tempted by a fantastic deal you see on social media. However, if you’re serious about protecting your personal data online, you should only shop on reputable sites.
There are various ways of checking whether a site is secure before you input your information. For example, look at reviews of the site, check if it has an SSL certificate, and look for an address and contact number of the business you’re considering purchasing from. If anything seems off at all, it’s not worth the risk of inputting your payment information or shipping address.
Beware of Downloads
One way cybercriminals target people’s personal information is by tricking them into downloading malware. Once this has been downloaded to a targets’ computer, a hacker then uses it to find and steal personal information off of the device.
Malware can be disguised as what might look like a regular or safe download, so you must stay alert. As a rule, never click for downloads from random websites, even if they look legitimate.
Don’t Open Suspicious Attachments
Another way cyber criminals steal your confidential information is through email attachments. Again, if you open an attachment from a cybercriminal, it may contain malware. This malware will then be used to search your computer and retrieve your data.
Never open an email from a sender you don’t trust, and especially avoid opening attachments that you think may be suspicious.
Use Antivirus Software and Keep it Up-to-Date
Having good antivirus software in place is crucial to protecting yourself in the online sphere. If you have accidentally downloaded some form of malware onto your device, your antivirus software should be able to remove it and keep you protected. However, you must ensure that you keep this software up-to-date, so it performs optimally to shield your personal information.
It might seem overwhelming, but it’s critical to consider all the avenues hackers can take to steal your personal information online. By understanding the risks associated with online activity, you can take the appropriate steps to protect your sensitive data from unwanted eyes.