Online PrivacyOnline Security

Five Self-inflicting Online Mistakes

Story Highlights

  • Using free, third-party VPN services
  • Connecting to public Wi-Fi networks
  • Blindly agreeing to online policies and agreements
  • Using IoT services
  • Sharing sensitive data over chat apps
  • Final words

In a tech-driven world, where it is almost impossible to spend a minute without the internet, the World Wide Web reigns supreme.

People go online for research, entertainment, news updates, studying, and so much more. And users generally visit websites as guests. Now, some of these pages require their visitors (us) to allow random permissions like the use of cookies or location sharing

Don’t take that for granted, because it is where most privacy leaks take place. According to Trend Micro, an unsecured server in Panama leaked the personally identifiable information (PII) of almost 90% of the population. That means the data of around 3.4 million Panamanians was compromised

As far as this goes, reputable websites like “Forbes” or “PayPal” asking you for such information is fine. After all, you’ll get to benefit from their services in return. However, giving out data to the wrong page should concern you because it involves many risks.

Still, most users don’t understand the gravity of their actions and keep allowing people, devices, and apps access to their data. That includes sensitive and critical information like credit card details, passwords, bank accounts, contacts, messages, and probably everything else on our phones.

Below are the most common online mistakes we commit that make us vulnerable while using the internet.


Using Third-Party VPN Services

Virtual Private Networks (VPN), although an excellent tool for online anonymity and security, can cause significant risks such as data leaks and monetization.

Reputable VPN providers allow you to connect to their private servers and gain total online privacy. By redirecting your Internet traffic through their server network, you’ll be able to bypass geo-restrictions and avoid censorship. And since VPNs encrypt your data, no third parties can monitor or track your online activity.

Sounds cool, right? Not really!

Alas, not all VPNs are like that. Users who subscribe to free providers are endangering their sensitive data. These services will most probably collect information about your Internet activity and connection, and sell it to other companies to make money.

The process is known as data monetization and is a massive threat to your privacy and safety.


Public Wi-Fi

Everybody loves public Wi-Fi, mostly because it’s free and allows you to save your mobile data. Unfortunately, these connections are far from secure.

While public hotspots help increase connectivity and resourcefulness, they are hunting grounds for hackers to attack your privacy and steal your precious data. 

According to Seth Rosenblatt, managing editor of security and privacy news site The Parallax, Public Wi-Fi is filled with security problems. He added that networks with common names like AT&T and Starbucks Wi-Fi could “easily be spoofed to capture logins.”

“Security on public Wi-Fi is generally low, so even if it is a legitimate network, it’s often easier to hack into than private Wi-Fi.”

Seth Rosenblatt, Managing Editor at The Parallax

As a result, you should avoid using public internet hotspots due to low-end encryption and security risks.

But in case you have to connect to a public Wi-Fi, use a reputable VPN to protect your privacy and data. In fact, trustworthy VPN providers can solve most online mistakes.


Hidden Traps of “Online Agreements”

It’s estimated that about 170,000 privacy policies and legal agreements are accepted every hour round the world. Now, for those who are unfamiliar with these terms, does the following sentence ring a bell?

“By Clicking, I acknowledge and accept the Terms and Conditions of the Agreement and Privacy Policy.”

This statement can be the gateway to a dark and invasive online world. And if you hit accept, you’ll open the door and legally allow the service to access all your data.

Never, and I mean NEVER, accept any agreement you see on the internet or in real life without properly reading it.

Privacy is dead – get over it.

That’s what Internet Privacy Investigating Officer Steve Rambam said when questioned about online privacy assaults.


Vulnerable IoT Network

If you are a tech-junkie, you might have heard the term “IoT.” Yes, it’s the “Internet of Things,” the biggest culprit in this online melodrama. 

IoT connects your home devices to a single network. That includes your smartphone, computer, and tablet; even your Smart TV, router, fridge, and thermostat. The problem is that this network can be very vulnerable, which means that attackers can have access to all your connected devices.

Even though it can make your life much more comfortable, IoT will also be your worst nightmare if things go wrong. That is why it’s better to avoid using this technology because it compromises your all your sensitive data and puts you at grave risk.


Sharing Sensitive Information in Chats 

Last but not least, you should keep on eye on what you post and share on social media platforms. Chat Companies like Facebook Messenger and WeChat store copies of your messages on their central servers. Unfortunately, it is quite easy to hack into these servers, which compromises your chats and conversations.

And it’s not just hackers that you should worry about. Even the company (like Facebook, for example) can read your messages.

However, some organizations and apps like WhatsApp provide end-to-end encryption. That means only the sender and the recipient can see the chats, videos, photos, and voice notes. Third parties won’t be able to read them, even if they get their hands on them.

Continually updating your statuses and showing-off your lifestyle can also trigger an attack. In the worst cases, you might attract the wrong people who will add you to their target list. 


Conclusion

It’s always wise to keep track of everything you do online and keep yourself within well-defined limits. Never leak your private information or socialize with strangers online, and always stay on your toes. That makes it difficult for cybercriminals to monitor your activities or hack your data.

Make sure you avoid the common online mistakes that I mentioned above to minimize the chances of a threat.

Which of these online mistakes do you find most costly? Share it with us in the comment section below.

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Ralph Peterson

Ralph was bitten by the tech bug from an early age. Today, he is a cybersecurity geek who is obsessed with online privacy. Peterson is also a hardcore streamer of the latest TV shows and sports tournaments. We constantly hear him shouting at his screen whenever there's a live Premier League match (or a bad ending to a TV series like GoT).

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