Cybercrime is one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises in this era. It makes around $1.5 trillion in profits a year — and that’s a liberal estimate, according to a 2019 study. So, what are some of the most profitable goods, so to speak, that are sold online? It turns out that stolen data is at the top of the list. This data comes from companies, organizations, and even people like you.
That’s right: hackers want data from everybody, not just high-powered executives or wealthy people. One of the biggest ways cybercriminals make bank is by selling username and password combinations to websites, subscriptions and even bank accounts.
This is why it’s critical for you to have strong cybersecurity habits. Luckily, we’ve got a guide on all you need to know about staying secure online. But another good way to stay safe is by being aware of misinformation.
There are tons of myths swirling around that keep people vulnerable and help hackers steal your data, so today we’re diving into 10 common misconceptions you should watch out for.
1. I don’t have anything worth protecting
You might think your data isn’t worth anything. You might think that since you have nothing to hide, there’s no point in protecting your identity or information. This mistaken idea helps cybercriminals crawl their way into your digital world and steal your secrets.
Think about it this way: all those free social media apps you sign up for — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — aren’t really free at all. When you sign the Terms and Conditions, you’re signing away your right to privacy, which lets the apps build a detailed, demographic profile of you.
The companies turn around and sell this information to marketers; that means your information is making these companies millions of dollars. So why wouldn’t hackers want to cash in on that?
This is only the tip of the iceberg, though. If you’ve got an iPhone, a webcam, or even Microsoft Word, hackers have a way to break into your computer and steal all that information you deem unimportant, all of which will make them a pretty penny on the Dark Web.
2. I use security software so that’s good enough
Many people think that security software will act as an invincible shield between their data and hackers. In reality, antivirus providers are at just as much risk as you are.
Just last year, a Russian group of hackers breached servers of three major antivirus providers. Now, all the information they stole is up for sale on the Dark Web.
So, what’s a good way to work around this danger? One of your options is to double up on protection. Just as two heads are better than one, so too are two different security programs. This way you’ve got multiple shields between your data and bad faith actors.
3. My data was already breached. I have nothing to protect now
So you found out that you’ve already been a victim to a security breach. You may feel hopeless, and like there’s no point in protecting your data since it’s already been overtaken.
That’s not true. There are different types of data breaches that can have different impacts. For example, say your password and username to your bank account has been breached. Don’t give up — inaction empowers the hackers to pry for even more information, which could lead them to your Social Security number.
You need to take immediate action: see if anyone’s trying to commit identity fraud or run a free credit report. Here are more steps you can take to make sure you can protect the privacy you have left.
4. Phishing scams are easy to spot
This is not always the case. Phishing scams are becoming more and more sophisticated as hackers infiltrate companies, CEO’s personal accounts, and even government agencies. In fact, phishing scams have skyrocketed during COVID-19.
It’s not always as simple as an unfamiliar account reaching out to you with bizarre messages trying to get you to click on a link. Sometimes, they use familiar faces against you, which leads to the next myth.
5. My friends on social media won’t hurt me
The great thing about social media is that it connects you with all of your friends and relatives. Unfortunately, the web of connectivity can be an opening for spiders to turn friends into gateways for data breaches.
Say your friend has a weak password, and their account gets breached. Say they send you a private message saying they found a funny new video or a cool new site you should check out. Since the link is coming from a familiar face, your guards may be down. After all, you’re aware of phishing scams when you get a message from someone you’ve never heard of, but you don’t have that on your mind when you hear from a friend.
Hackers bank on those lowered guards to corrupt your web and turn it into a jumping point for even more data breaches.
6. Hackers are mysterious, scary figures who lurk in dark rooms with hoodies
When you think of a hacker, you probably imagine popular images of hooded figures hunched over a computer. Actually, a lot of hackers are normal people and can be hard to spot.
It’s important to realize that hackers aren’t lone wolves. There are entire organizations — often government-funded — that work together to infiltrate data and rake in millions. Hacking is also a popular way for mobsters to bring in cash at long distances.
Once you realize just how dire this threat is, it becomes easy to understand why taking steps towards cybersecurity is so important.
7. I only go to mainstream sites so I don’t need security software
You need security software no matter where you go. Remember what I said earlier, about how social media apps sell your data to make their money? The more cookies you have in your browser, the more your every step is being followed.
When multiple sites have a detailed profile of you, that increases your chances of getting your data breached, since all companies are vulnerable to a data breach. Security software keeps you safe. It’s like two-factor authentication: a necessary step towards protecting your privacy.
RELATED: 3 security programs that should be on every computer and laptop
8. I use complex passwords so I am not a target
In today’s security landscape, even a long, complicated password isn’t enough to keep you safe.
Nowadays, there are speedy programs people use to run billions of password combinations — and it only takes a second to run these potential passwords. Not only that, but hackers have sophisticated methods for identifying passwords we use in password creation.
That’s why you should also use password managers as well as two-factor authentication.
9. I know a fake voice when I hear one
You’ve probably heard of this: scammers often call you with robotic voices, pretending to be the IRS. They demand money. You may think you can recognize a robotic voice, but unfortunately, robocallers are improving their techniques.
Deepfake technology can replicate more than just faces. It’s also expanding into voices. Online programs need only to hear your voice to create a close copy.
10. I will know when something bad gets in my device or computer
You never know what could be lurking on your computer. Cybercriminals have intricate ways of infiltrating your data; there could even be Trojan horses in the form of viruses lurking in your code right now.
Some of these techniques were taken from the CIA.
Now that you’re aware of the 10 most common cybersecurity myths, you’re better equipped to recognize misinformation spread by hackers who want to keep you vulnerable.
Remember, your data is worth a lot to cybercriminals, so take steps to protect it. Make sure all of your gadgets are up to date with all the security patches needed to fend off online attacks.
Make use of strong security software, password managers, and two-factor authentication. Most of all, follow news on recent breaches and hacking trends so you can keep your security tools strong and timely.