With Halloween just around the corner, you may be indulging in some of the spooky traditions of the season, such as streaming scary movies or visiting haunted houses. Outside of the traditional Halloween fare, some habits and practices we take part in every day can be a little chilling – like the simple choices we make online that can put our accounts and identity at risk.
In the spirit of the season, we’ve identified five frightening habits that so many people are guilty of but you should try to avoid to make your life online a little less ghastly and a little more comforting.
- Clicking on links or opening attachments from unknown senders. Just as it’s advised to check your trick-or-treating candy before digging in, the same skepticism should apply when it comes to links and attachments you receive in your inbox. Cyber attackers are growing more sophisticated, and they also know that this method of attack — phishing — is one of the easiest ways to compromise accounts. Whenever you receive an email asking you to open a link or attachment or send sensitive personal information, double check the sender’s email address and hover over the link to see where it will take you. If it seems off, it probably is and you should avoid it.
- Skipping software updates. Those pop-up dialog boxes telling you to update your software shouldn’t be ignored. Your software is probably running fine, and while an update might just feel like an inconvenience and annoyance, the reality is that developers update their software for a reason. Oftentimes, to make your device more secure and protect against known threats. Next time you go to click “Remind Me Later”, think about the potential risks you’re opening yourself up to.
- Reusing passwords. This is another habit that many are guilty of, without understanding the impact it can have on their security. Our recent survey showed that 91 percent of users understand the risk of reusing passwords, yet 61 percent do so anyway. When we use the same, easy-to-remember passwords across multiple accounts, we’re putting ourselves at greater risk of being compromised. If a hacker can get into one of your accounts, they can access them all. Instead of falling back on your same password, start using a password manager like LastPass to create unique, secure passwords for all of your accounts.
- Connecting to public wifi. When you’re in a bind – like at the airport before a flight or a coffee shop between meetings – connecting to a public wifi network is a seemingly convenient way to get some work done or catch up on emails. However, joining these public networks is risky, especially if you haven’t checked your sharing settings. It’s simple for a hacker to steal your information over a shared network. Next time you go to use public wifi, be sure your sharing settings are turned off and browse using HTTPS when possible. If you’re looking at something with sensitive information, it might make sense to wait until you’re connected to your personal, secure wifi to do so.
- Skipping two-factor authentication. When it comes to security, in most cases more is better. Adding another step to the login process by implementing two-factor authentication is a simple way to better protect your accounts. The second factor could be a code that’s texted to you, or using an app on your phone. By combining the basic password with this second step, you’re adding extra protection to your account. Check to see if your most-used accounts have two-factor options, or download an app like the LastPass Authenticator to quickly add a second layer of security and be one step closer to protecting yourself against possible cyber threats and hackers.