11 Common Online Behaviors That Threaten Your Security

Unless you’re always on guard, it’s shockingly easy to invite a data breach or fall victim to an online scam. In fact, it just takes one wrong click or file download. With our workplaces and social lives becoming more and more internet-centric, cybersecurity should always be top of mind. Take a minute to uncover common online behaviors that put you and your data at risk, both at home and in the workplace.

1. Downloading Content from Unsafe Websites

A variety of files — from music and videos to games and software — can contain malware. The risk of downloading pirated media or unlicensed software from the internet is that it could put a virus on your computer.

How to Stay Safe: Only download software and media from legitimate sources. You may need to pay for content you could download for free elsewhere, but the improved security is worth the investment.

2. Connecting with Strangers and Over-Sharing on Social Media

Tricky cybercriminals use social networking to aid their cause. Some make fake online personas or duplicates of hacked accounts and send out friend requests. If you accept, anything you post will become visible to the hacker, even if your account is set to private. This is particularly detrimental if you share personal information on social media.

How to Stay Safe: If someone you don’t know asks to connect, check their credentials first. If you think it’s a duplicate of a friend’s account, contact them by other means to let them know. Also, don’t over-share online, especially in public forums or with strangers, and never list your personal contact information or account numbers on social media.

3. Reusing Passwords

As convenient as it is to use the same password for multiple online accounts, this greatly increases your cybersecurity risk. After all, if a criminal obtains your go-to password, this could provide access to everything from your social media login to your bank account numbers.

How to Stay Safe: Create a unique password for every account you access online. Make these difficult to guess, using a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Avoid using common phrases, words, or number sequences. Don’t share your passwords with anyone. To prevent forgetting passwords, write them down and store them in a secure place. Better yet, store login credentials in a master password-protected program on your computer. More password tips.

Phishing is a technique identity thieves use to steal sensitive information from internet users. One method is to send spam emails that appear to come from a person or organization you know and trust. Then, when you open an attachment or click on a link, your computer becomes infected with malware.

How to Stay Safe: Check that the email is legitimate. The “from” line may display a friend’s or organization’s name, but the email address may look unfamiliar. Even if the address seems genuine, you can look for other telltale signs, such as uncharacteristic spelling and grammatical errors or insistence that your immediate action is needed. When in doubt, delete the email and reach out to the supposed sender by other means.

5. Typing or Saving Personal Information on Unsecured Websites

Another phishing technique is pretending to be a website you trust. You think you’re signing up for a bank or credit card account, or simply logging in, but you’re actually gift-wrapping your personal information for an identity thief.

How to Stay Safe: Become immediately suspicious if you’re asked to provide information that’s not usually required to log in to your account, such as your Social Security number. Also, check the URL at the top of the web page. If you don’t see a padlock icon or a URL that begins with “https,” the site is not secure and could be phishing for your information.

6. Making Purchases on Unfamiliar Websites

If you find a deal on an obscure site that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The vendor itself could be fraudulent, or the small online retailer might simply lack a secure payment system.

How to Stay Safe: Your best bet is to stick with known online retailers. If you purchase goods from a small site, make sure it uses a reputable, secure payment method such as PayPal®. Again, you can tell if the payment page is secure by looking for the padlock icon or “https” in the URL.

7. Saving Login Information or Forgetting to Sign Out From a Shared Computer

If you’re accessing a password-secured account from a public computer, it’s easy to forget the need for security. However, if you get up and walk away, any passerby can take a picture of your screen or steal your laptop, putting any confidential data saved on your hard drive at risk.

How to Stay Safe: Never leave mobile devices unattended, either in public or at your workplace. Log out completely when you’re finished, and never choose to save your username or password to the computer.

8. Failing to Secure Your Wireless Network

If you use Wi-Fi at home or work, neglecting to create a password means anyone can tap into the wireless signal. Those with criminal intentions can also access anything you do over the unsecured network.

How to Stay Safe: When you set up your wireless router, follow the user’s guide to creating a Wi-Fi password. You can give this to friends and family when they visit while keeping clandestine hackers out.

9. Sending Personal Information Over Public Wi-Fi

Coffee shops, libraries, airports, hotels, and other public spaces often provide free Wi-Fi. This allows you to browse the web on your mobile device via an unsecured network, which requires an ounce of caution.

How to Stay Safe: Avoid logging in to your bank or other sensitive accounts while on a public wireless network. If you must send information, make sure the website itself is encrypted. This will protect the data transmitted to and from that site.

10. Disposing of Hard Drives or Paper Documents Improperly

When it’s time to upgrade your hard drive, you may want to dispose of it or sell it to someone else. Leaving personal information stored on the drive could be a security risk. Discarding sensitive paper documents could also set you up for fraud.

How to Stay Safe: Deleting files from a hard drive isn’t enough. You must wipe it clean with a utility program that overwrites all the data on the drive. Before disposing of or selling a mobile device, return it to its original factory settings and remove the SIM card. As for physical documents, shred the paperwork before sending it to the curb.

11. Neglecting to Install Anti-Virus Software

Despite your best efforts to exercise adequate online security measures, it’s still possible to become the victim of a cyberattack. You’re especially vulnerable if your computer doesn’t have anti-virus software.

How to Stay Safe: Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and run a firewall. These defenses protect and warn you of cyberattacks before it’s too late. They also offer virus detection and removal to help restore your computer to its previously secure state.

Keep Your Account Information Secure at Connexus Credit Union

Fraud is one of today’s biggest cybersecurity threats. If your identity is stolen or your bank account information gets out, you could be at risk of losing your hard-earned savings.

We take internet security very seriously. Our dedicated fraud team monitors your accounts regularly for suspicious activity, and if we notice anything unusual, we’ll reach out to you. We also recommend reviewing your accounts every month to watch for transactions you don’t recognize. With these tips, you can utilize the internet’s incredible potential while minimizing your online security risk.