Every day there is a new story about hackers stealing people’s passwords, social security numbers, and even life savings. But there are five simple things you can do to protect yourself online.
1. You share your personal information for the wrong things.
Risa Puno recently offered New Yorkers a free cookie—well, almost free. All they had to do was give her their mother’s maiden name, driver’s license number, and social security number. Puno, an artist, expected some pushback or at least a few questions. Instead, more than 350 savvy New Yorkers handed over the sensitive information—some even gave fingerprints! Puno’s performance art showed how little people value their private data. Especially since most people didn’t even eat the cookie.
2. You use passwords that are too easy for people to crack
For the first time, “password” is no longer the most popular password—it’s been bumped to second place. The most common? 123456. Not much progress. When coming up with passwords, add a dash of alphanumerical variety. Turn princess (number 22 on the list) into pR1nce$$. Even if you find the perfect password, remember to change it up for each account. After all, you don’t use your house key to start your car or open your office.
3. You let people know where you are all the time, including when you’re not at home.
It’s hard not to share those beach vacation photos or plans, especially when friends are slogging through the snow. But remember jealous friends aren’t the only ones seeing your sunny selfies. 80% of robbers check social media accounts to see if you’re home. If you aren’t careful, all would-be burglars need is a quick check online to see where you live, what goods you have, and how long you’ll be gone. Stay safe by saving the photo shares for when you’re back.
4. You post things online before thinking about what you typed.
One post can lead to many misunderstandings, especially when you’re constrained by 140 characters. Until they create a sarcasm font, it’s better to play it safe. Imagine your parents, 5th grade math teacher, or a basket of adorable puppies is watching what you type. Would they approve? If the imagination game doesn’t work you can always hire a cyber security team to monitor your posts. It works for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt!
5. You don’t update your privacy or security settings on social media.
Social media accounts have privacy and security settings for a reason. Use them to make sure you’re only connecting with people you know. After all, a scandal is just a screengrab away. And if you stop using an account, close it. There’s no reason to have all those old photos and overwrought journal entries floating around for anyone to see.