If You’re Not Using These Internet Safeguards, You Could Be Getting Scammed
It’s so much easier to save a password in our browsers than to login manually to email, Facebook, or other sites that we frequently use.
It’s even easier to use the same password—equipped with capital letters and special characters—so that we don’t need to remember ten different passwords.
And how annoying are those “it’s time to update your device” reminders? Ignore, ignore, remind me later.
Since the transition of more business and social activities to online formats, hackers have been more active than ever. Between January and April 2020 alone, incidents of Malware infection have increased by 35% according to a report by Mimecast.
The increase in cybercrime isn’t anticipated to slow down anytime soon either. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime damages will cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021, doubling from the $3 trillion it cost globally in 2015.
One reason for the uptick in cyber scams is that, these days, hackers can easily buy cybercrime tools on the dark web. For example, a password stealer costs $50. Or better yet, criminals can simply buy stolen passwords and login credentials for individual consumers or organizations.
Hackers can also buy remote access trojans (which cost about $200), a remote desktop control tool (which costs about $100), credit scores for 750+ credit scores (for around $150), or other hacking services.
As the world of cybercrime and access to malicious tools grows, so does your online security risk.
Still, 69% of online adults say they do not worry about how secure their online passwords are, according to Pew Research report.
That’s destined to become a problem for many of us in the near future.
Here are the cybersecurity reminders that we all need as we use the internet to do everything from staying in touch with loved ones to banking and shopping.
1. Never click on a link in an email to provide personal information.
In a moment of chaos, I’ll admit I’ve been duped.
“Did you login from this location?” an email from “Facebook” asks. “If not, reset your password now.”
Scammers are getting better than ever at creating highly convincing emails, websites and login pages that appear to be from a legitimate source, like a bank or social media account.
It’s as easy as “It’s time to update your contact information…”
This past summer, Bank of America was hacked when requests to update contact information were sent out, linking to what looked like legitimate Bank of America webpages. They were fraudulent.
The lesson: Never click on a link in an email to change a password or provide personal information.
Known as phishing, hackers frequently use impersonation and other strategies to trick users into opening something with a virus or offering up personal information voluntarily. While we’ve all heard the warnings to not click links, malicious links are getting harder and harder to spot.
Phishing doesn’t only happen exclusively online. These scams extend to phone, email, text or even snail mail. For example, a recent scam that sent out unsolicited, legitimate Chase debit cards for activation was crafted by scammers trying to cash in on a Chase promotion. In another example, debit cards from other banks were originated by scammers and sent to unsuspecting consumers in order for the scammers to fraudulently cash in on unemployment benefits in the wake of COVID-19. In other words, scammers are getting more creative than ever.
When in doubt, navigate to the official website (not via any provided links) or call the bank directly.
2. Using the same password across sites
Many of us likely find ourselves needing to reset a password umpteen times in a row because we forgot what we used.
As a result, many of us use the same one over and over again. In fact, 39% of people say that they use the same (or very similar) passwords for many of their online accounts, according to Pew Research.
That’s a bad move.
Let’s say you use one password for an online shopping account, which is the same for your email, banking, etc. If one entity is hacked, all your information can easily be compromised and hijacked or sold.
And although bigger entities like Gmail, Outlook.com, Yahoo!, and the like tend to have excellent security infrastructure, they aren’t immune to attacks. Yahoo! notably experienced multiple hacks, one of which affected up to 3 billion user accounts.
The rule of thumb: use varied passwords and save them, not by writing them down on paper or in a computer file, but instead in a password vault like LastPass.
3. Not updating your device
Somewhere along the line, updating our devices became as controversial as getting a COVID vaccine. What if there’s a glitch in the updates? Will it mess up my apps? I’ll wait until it’s rolled out further, we think.
I’m here to tell you: don’t wait! Regular software updates are critical to keeping your device running smoothly and safely.
Ignoring these updates can actually cause anxiety all on its own. This is because by avoiding the updates, we ultimately end up receiving notifications continuously about a task that we keep postponing.
Still, one in ten people report that they never install updates to their smartphone’s apps or operating system, according to Pew Research.
4. Storing credit card information
When we buy from the same retailers online, it’s just easier NOT to have to type in our credit card numbers every time. Why not just have the store save them on their website and click “buy”?
Even though it’s much easier, saving your credit card information online can make you an easy target for cybercriminals.
The bottom line is that not all retailer platforms are created equal. While Apple and BestBuy are ranked the best, other sites like Macy’s didn’t score as highly, according to one report.
As many as 41% of Americans have encountered fraudulent charges on their credit cards, indicating that fraud is widespread enough to make you want to keep your credentials close.
When it comes to cybersecurity, the technology that makes online transactions more convenient tends to also put us more at risk. The irony is that while we know we are at risk when we avoid updates, use the same password, and store our credit card numbers, many of us continue to do it anyways. This year, as hackers up their cybercriminal game, let’s up our cybersecurity game, too.