Hacking can happen on any device and to any person—and hackers are only getting smarter by the minute.
Hacking is difficult to stop once it’s happened, which is why you should take preventative measures before it happens to you.
Most of the time, hackers want information that helps them access sensitive data. Sensitive information can be anything from passwords, birthdays, and account numbers. Emails, private messages, and pop-ups are some of the most common forms of hacking, but hackers can steal your financial information even just by knowing your social security number.
We all know we shouldn’t open suspicious-looking emails and that we should routinely update our devices, but what other daily activities should we avoid to prevent someone from hacking us?
Here are four signs you make yourself vulnerable to hackers.
Apple’s AppStore and Google’s Google Play are the two most-used app stores. Both contain third-party apps, but both stores vet each app. The problem is, several apps still fall through the cracks. Users usually don’t think twice before downloading an app from an official app store, which is part of the problem.
Third-party apps can infect phones with malicious software that can steal your personal information. Hackers are skilled at making apps appear legitimate, which is why most people don’t try to verify an app before they download it.
Since hackers know this, it’s important you keep your guard up when downloading apps. For starters, don’t ever download an app someone texts you or emails you. Second, be sure never to download an app that isn’t in an official app store.
Even when you do download an app in an official app store, check the number of times people have downloaded the app. If only a few people have downloaded it, it could mean it’s buggy or dangerous.
Make sure to read reviews too. Give the app a quick Google search and see what other people have to say about it.
Routinely log into your accounts and keep an eye on your assets so you can monitor or catch anything fishy before it turns into a bigger problem. The sooner you realize you’ve been hacked, the sooner you can contact your bank or the company you’re working with to resolve the issue.
Make sure to log into your bank account or credit card account on a bi-weekly or weekly basis. Request email or text updates anytime there’s activity on your account. That way, you’ll know every time your cards are used, and can quickly catch when they might be used by someone other than you.
Also, never save your password on a password manager or browser — even on your home laptop or phone. Along with other password best practices, make sure to update your password every three or four months and choose only long, elaborate passwords that don’t include any information about your personal life (e.g., hometown, name of dog, etc.).
Instagram is littered with fake accounts, and fake accounts seem to fall through the cracks on every other social media platform too.
Hackers create fake accounts to pose as small businesses, banks, or individuals and steal personal information based on a fraudulent business transaction. Bogus accounts often have purchased followers and fake or falsified content.
Look for accounts with unrealistic profile pictures, accounts that post multiple times a day, and random accounts with no mutual followers that private message you out of the blue.
In general, be wary of who you communicate with online. Be as private as possible on your social media accounts. As a rule of thumb, never share account details, passwords, or other sensitive information over social media — even if you know the person or feel as though you can trust them.
Smart home devices bring consumers total convenience, but they also create more opportunities for hackers to attack.
Take smart speakers, for instance. Smart speakers store audio files (even ones that don’t specifically address the device) so they can better learn how to respond to your voice commands. The problem? They don’t delete these files on their own.
Most smart speakers store months worth of audio files without its users ever realizing. But hackers are aware of this, and will listen to your private conversations to steal bits of personal information.
For instance, if you tell someone next to you what the password is to one of your accounts, a hacker will hear the password and use it to log into your account as well. Or, if you order something over-the-phone and share your credit card information, hackers will take that and run with it too.
Keep yourself safe and secure your smart speakers: Manually delete every audio file each week, enable two-factor authentication, and be selective about which accounts link to your device.
Hacking is as rampant as ever, so it’s essential to keep up on basic, common sense internet safety tips. Routinely update your devices, install firewalls and antivirus software, avoid public Wi-Fi like the plague, and stick with strong passwords.
Even then, consider upping the ante by switching to two-factor authentication, investing in a virtual private network (VPN), or anything else that puts a line of defense between hackers and your personal information.
When it comes to hacking, it’s always better to be safe than sorry — because where there’s a will, there’s a way.