We all use the internet every day. From communicating with our loved ones to shopping online, the web has touched most aspects of our lives. But with our growing dependence on it, cybersecurity threats are also multiplying.
As the internet has affected our everyday behavior, we must then change how we interact with the internet in order to stay safe online. So how can you protect yourself from cyberattacks and scams by slightly altering your behavior?
Why You Should Care for Cybersecurity
The World Wide Web is the wild wild west. If you’re careless while surfing online, a threat actor can attack you. This can result in loss of privacy, sensitive data, money, and reputation.
Poor cybersecurity practices in any company can let hackers access the business’ secrets, financial information, customer data, or employee records. This can lead to the theft of millions of dollars or the exposure of confidential company information.
To strengthen your cybersecurity, you have to implement both technical security controls and behavior-based security controls. This is because human error contributes to many cyberattacks. In fact, 95 percent of data breaches are caused due to the human error.
How to Change Your Behavior to Stay Safe Online
The following behavior-based security controls can help you use the internet safely without falling victim to a scammer.
1. Don’t Click Anything if You Didn’t Request It
Hackers employ various phishing techniques to fool victims. They pose as a legitimate authority when contacting you to dupe you into sharing confidential information or installing malware on your device.
So, you should always be suspicious of unsolicited chat messages, popups, emails, phone calls, or SMSes. If you didn’t request it, don’t click it.
If you have subscribed to an email list or social media channel, you’re likely to receive emails or social media posts. Even then, you should be careful if you click links and download attachments.
2. Never Download and Run Suspicious Files
You should be highly cautious about which files to download and install when surfing the internet.
Whenever you receive a file from an unknown source or one that does not appear safe, never download or run it on your device.
Also, you should avoid downloading cracked versions of legitimate software programs. Even if it seems to be just an innocent game or image, it could actually be a malicious program designed to collect personal data or infect your device with ransomware or any other type of malware.
You should always exercise caution when you download files from the internet, as the consequences of doing so can be devastating.
Popups and links can be deceiving; they may look legitimate, but in reality, they might be created by threat actors.
Submitting login information after a popup is incredibly risky because it could mean sharing sensitive information with a fake site. The MrBeast giveaway popup scam and McAfee virus popup scam are good examples of how people get scammed through popups.
As much as it is possible, you should avoid submitting login credentials or personal information after following a link or popup.
Instead, you should go to the website by typing a URL in your web browser’s address bar and submit login credentials there.
4. Validate an Unknown Link Before Clicking
Before you click on any unknown link, you should validate it to ensure it is not part of a link manipulation scheme. Validating an unknown link before clicking can help you avoid URL spoofing.
Copy the link and paste it on a notepad. Check if the link includes a misspelled domain or there are multiple sub-domains and sub-directories. If it does, that’s a red flag.
You can also use link checkers such as ScanURL, VirusTotal, and URLVoid to check if a link is safe to click.
So next time you see an unknown link in your email, social media chat, or SMS, validate it first.
5. Minimize Personal Information Disclosure
Most social engineering attacks rely on users’ personal information to be successful.
The more personal information hackers have about you, the better they will be equipped to trick you into disclosing sensitive information, sharing login credentials, or installing malware.
For example, if a threat actor knows your birthday, cell phone number, and the name of your best friend, they can send you an out-of-the-blue SMS containing a link to a malicious website on your birthday. As your friend’s name is included in the message, you may click the link even if the message came from an unknown number.
Your private data has worth, and hackers can sell your personal information on the dark web.
So you should never share the following types of information online:
- Address and phone number.
- Identification, credit cards, and banking details.
- Email address.
- Workplace information.
- Incidents of your personal life.
Hackers pick up such information and use it to perpetuate phishing attacks on users. So you need to follow the best data privacy habits to protect your private information.
6. Check With the Sender
If you have received something you never requested, you should always check it with the sender. And if it comes from any unknown person or entity, be suspicious.
For example, a colleague emails you with a download link asking you to install the application on your PC. If you didn’t ask them to send this, you should reach out to your colleague through a different medium, like instant messenger, phone call, or face-to-face, and confirm the email is genuine.
Here are some ways to check the legitimacy of an email:
- No organization will send an email using a public email domain such as google(dot)com or outlook(dot)com. So, any company email with a public domain is most likely to be a scam.
- Copy and paste the email content into your favorite search engine. If you see similar content in search engine results, it’s a scam.
- If you see any misspellings in the email domain name, report it right away to your email provider or IT department.
- A poorly written email is a sign of a phishing scam.
Last but not least, if an email message creates a sense of urgency, be suspicious about it.
7. Check the Attachment Is Genuine
You should never download any email attachments if you’re not sure about where it came from.
Many reputed antivirus programs allow you to scan email attachments. Having such a program installed on your PC can be helpful in spotting and avoiding malicious attachments.
In addition, you should always avoid clicking on some executable file extensions, such as .EXE, .COM, .VBS, and .SCR in unknown emails to be on the safe side.
8. Avoid Obvious Threats
Simply don’t let your guard down. This means you should never disclose your credit card information, bank details, or personal information over the phone to someone claiming to be a legitimate authority.
If something looks too good to be true, then probably it is.
Be Careful to Stay Safe
Following the above behavior-based safety tips will help you stay protected while you navigate the internet. But there’s always more you can do to beef up your security.
Additionally, you should amp up your cybersecurity with real-time protection to stay safe online.