Most people who are caught in data breaches are surprised. After all, when you’ve done nothing but shop at your favorite retail store and pay with your debit or credit card, you haven’t exactly done something dangerous.
Yet while most of the millions of people who had their data compromised in recent large-scale breaches were nothing more than innocent victims caught in the snare of a ruthless cyber criminal, there are still plenty of cases in which stolen data — and money — can be directly attributed to certain behaviors. Not taking the proper precautions to secure your devices and data are almost guaranteed to lead to a hassle at minimum, and at worst, a stolen identity.
Making matters worse is the fact that you may not even realize that you’re putting your information at risk. You just go about your everyday business, assuming that everything is safe and no one is watching. You couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, there’s a good chance that you have at least a few of the most dangerous habits — habits that are practically guaranteed to make you a victim of a data breach.
1. Using Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is great. It allows us to access the Internet, send email, and stay entertained no matter where we happen to be. But the thing about public Wi-Fi is that, well, it’s public. Anyone can hack into the network and see all of the traffic on it. This means that when you use the Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop to check your bank balance while waiting for a friend, there’s a chance that the “student” in the corner could be capturing your username and password via a hacked connection. Save the tasks that involve accessing sensitive information, such as paying bills or logging into work databases, for when you’re on a secure connection, and only use public Wi-Fi for tasks that won’t jeopardize your identity.
2. Not Protecting Your Mobile Devices
With so mobile devices these days, is it any wonder that cyber criminals are turning their attention toward stealing the data they contain? The number of viruses targeted at Android devices continues to grow at an alarming rate, and the recent scandal involving celebrity nude photos stored in private iCloud accounts shows that even Apple devices aren’t immune to hackers. For that reason, it is vital to take steps to secure your mobile devices. Take the time to install an Android security solution to block viruses, use your phone’s security features, and don’t store passwords to important apps (like your bank) to keep your data safe in the event the device is lost or stolen.
3. Using Debit Cards in the Wrong Places
Debit cards are convenient, but when someone gets ahold of your card and PIN, they can clean out your accounts in a matter of minutes. Not to mention, when you use a debit card, you create an “electronic trail that gives a hacker everything they need to steal your money and identity. You may not have shopped at a particular store for months, but if a hacker steals several years of records, you could still be vulnerable. Try to use cash as much as possible, or if you must pay with plastic, use a credit card that has a higher degree of fraud protection than a debit card, especially if you are shopping online.
4. Oversharing on Social Media
You know it’s not a good idea to announce that you’ll be out of town for two weeks online, but you can overshare other information that leaves you vulnerable to identity theft. Your Facebook profile most likely contains everything an enterprising thief needs to steal your identity — birthdays, anniversaries, pet names, maiden names, etc. — so be cautious about what you share and with whom. Lock down your profile as well, so “friends” of friends cannot see and access your vita data.
5. Giving Out Unnecessary Information.
When you’re checking out at a store, politely decline to provide a phone number, birthday, email address, or other information, no matter how insistent the clerk may be. If you’d rather not argue, give out fake information. If a hacker accesses a store database, they will have all of the information you shared, all of which can be used to steal your identity. Keep your personal information personal, and never give out your Social Security number, driver’s license number, or other vital information without a valid reason.
By recognizing your bad habits and taking steps to stop doing them, you can keep your data safer. You may not be able to avoid being part of a large group of breach victims, but when there is less information about you floating around, there’s less likelihood that what the hackers get will be of any use to them.