Internet has pervaded nearly every activity we do. Whether we’re watching our Smart TVs or professionally networking with people on the other side of the world, so much of our daily lives are spent online that we barely even think about it anymore. Have a question? Jump on your favorite search engine. Need to impress friends with an obscure fact? Find scholarly articles in just a few clicks. Want to see a movie, or request time off, or plan a date in a new neighborhood, or find a new job? Online, online, online.
Do you treat cybersecurity so cavalier every time you use the web? Lots of people don’t think twice about who has their location or are tracking their cookies when they’re just looking up directions.
The trouble is, cybercriminals look for these lapses in attention or judgement because it’s the perfect time to strike. Staying aware of perceived weak spots will enable you to take more steps to protect your online activity from third parties.
#1 Public WiFi
We know that airports aren’t a great place to check your bank accounts and important contracts, even though plenty of people use the excessive downtime to do just that. The problem is that this risk isn’t limited to airports. Anywhere you use public WiFi puts you at risk. You have no idea who else has a connection that they’re using to spy on other network users.
Let’s look at this in the real world. Pretend you go to a dinner reservation where you have to look for your wait time online. There’s five parties ahead of you, so while you wait at the bar, you ask for the WiFi password to check some emails or play some thumb games to kill time. Even though their guest WiFi is password protected, you have no idea who else the bartender might have given that information out to. Someone who came in for lunch might still be connected to the WiFi, now lurking outside and spying on everything you do online while you wait.
#2 Social Media
When we’re not updating our LinkedIn with professional successes, we’re publishing Milestones on Facebook or Instagram Lives of big moments. ALL of this still qualifies as social media, and the more you tell about yourself online, the more chances a hacker has to learn about you before interacting.
Think about it. You post an Instagram photo in front of your house; then a follower also finds your full legal name on Facebook; they see where you work, what you do and your email on LinkedIn. They immediately know lots of key facts about you that can be used to either try out some intuitive password guesses or connect with you through social engineering (or reverse social engineering) to get your credentials for work AND personal accounts. That’s a whole lot of data to lose because of some careless posts on social media!
#3 Unexpected IoT Devices
Your manager may have warned you not to use your phone on company WiFi, and that’s not just because they don’t want you blogging when you should be working. The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to any devices you use to access a network without a computer like your cell phone, smart TV and tablet – and they’re a common target for hackers because they tend be much less secure than computers.
Did you know that your medical implants, car and many other pieces of machinery and technology also qualify as IoT devices? Maybe you don’t log into your heart monitor every day in the traditional sense, but it can still collect data and store it for the hospital staff until they check it next appointment. Anything that enables people to connect remotely has the potential for a hacker to break in, see or manipulate data and PII, and infect the device.
Be careful what applications you allow access to your location, connect to nearby devices, track Cookies and more. All of this can be toggled on and off in the Settings of the typical IoT devices that you probably use every day.
Cybersecurity and continuous monitoring of all your Internet-connected systems is the most effective way to stay protected in your day-to-day interactions with these devices. You won’t always remember to launch your VPN to hide your Internet activity, or play with location services when you need them. As a second barrier of defense, keep up to date with the latest technologies and upgrades available.
- Use devices that are equipped with tracker blockers, web filters and other software designed to keep you safe automatically while you browse
- Don’t connect to public WiFi; if you must, then be very careful what you look up
- Don’t save your confidential information on devices like your phone, which are easier to breach
- Regularly run anti-virus and security checks
These are just a few ways to keep your online activity private, no matter where you are or what devices you’re using. Still, you have to practice safe behaviors online – and that goes beyond your parents’ advice not to give out your real name to strangers, although that certainly matters too.
Protecting your Internet usage will make it much more difficult for hackers to monitor your online data and breach your systems and networks. Follow our blog for more tips on protecting your online activity in today’s cyber-threat landscape!