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Safety & security

20 security secrets hackers don’t want you to know

Hackers are the bane of our existence. What started as the occasional data breach has turned into thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of scams, ransomware and heinous attacks. Nobody is safe.

While anyone could be a victim to hackers, that doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself. There is an entirely separate market out there for programs and devices designed to keep you from getting hacked. Sometimes the answers are simpler than investing in fancy products. Here are five essential steps to take to protect yourself from hackers online.

Information is power, as they say. So the best thing you can do is arm yourself with knowledge. Here are 20 security secrets that hackers don’t want to know about.

1. Oversharing on social media

We post everything on social media. Bad idea! Avoid oversharing the following information, and whatever you do, stay away from using basic information to create passwords.

  • Children’s names.
  • Pet names.
  • The date of your anniversary and maybe divorce!
  • Kid’s birthdates.
  • Anything relevant to your passwords.

The best way to protect yourself here is to create a strong password. Do so by using a combination of letters, capital letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using common names and phrases in your passwords or any personal information. Tap or click here for five new rules to creating the best passwords.

2. Photos with inside looks of your home

This is simple enough. Think before you post. Pictures of your home office sometimes catch images of your computer screen. This can easily give hackers what they need. To really ensure hackers can’t take advantage of your photos, double-check your privacy settings.

On Facebook

On Instagram

  • Head to the Settings menu.
  • On the top right corner, select the hamburger button.
  • This opens a side menu.
  • Click the settings wheel at the very bottom.
  • Click on Privacy.
  • Select the activate the private account setting.

3. Eerily similar emails

Some of the most successful scams come through emails. Some tend to think emails are harmless, but they have the potential to become a huge hassle. Look for any subtle signs that emails are spoofed. Often the email addresses and links are very close, but a single digit is off.

It’s never a good idea to reply to unsolicited emails with banking or personal information. If you need to conduct business with a company that you normally deal with, contact them directly. Also, don’t click links or open attachments found in unsolicited emails. They could be malicious and infect your device with malware.

4. Your boss needs your personal information immediately

Just like emails that are made to look super similar to, say, your bank, in hopes of tricking you, the same goes for your company. They may even know specifics about your boss and your job role.

If you receive a message that’s supposedly from your boss or company’s HR department asking for personal information or even company funds, don’t fall for it. It could be a BEC or spear-phishing attack. Tap or click here to see how BEC scams work.

5. They prey on your emotions

The IRS scam call is a great example of this. If you don’t pay them now, they will issue a warrant for your arrest immediately. Everybody is scared of the IRS.

Sometimes the scammer will claim a loved one is in jail and demand you cover the bond money they have to pay. It’s another play on your emotions as you must act now. This manipulation works well on loved ones. These types of scams often target the elderly. Don’t let them pressure or scare you.

6. Your router doesn’t have security

Weak passwords on your accounts are bad ideas, but they are just as dangerous on your router. You should follow the same password rules for your banking information and other secure sites on your router.

Protect yourself from hackers with a sophisticated password and don’t share it with anyone. Allow your guests Wi-Fi access without giving them your password with these options:

  • Create a Wi-Fi guest network with a separate password for visitors to use.
  • Offer a QR code to scan and connect.
  • Connect automatically with WPS.

Don’t know how to create a QR code for your Wi-Fi network? No worries, we can help. Tap or click here to find out how to share Wi-Fi without giving out your password.

7. Your smart appliances aren’t secure either

Everything in our homes nowadays can be a smart device. Thanks to Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, we can control devices with our voice, making us want to get more smart devices. From your coffee makers to your Wi-Fi-connected light sources, one compromising device can give a hacker access to your entire network.

How do you fix this? Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for smart devices whenever possible to limit security breaches. This is especially important when purchasing security cameras for your home. You don’t want hackers to have access to those! Tap or click here for more info on 2FA.

RELATED: Set up a security camera in under 30 seconds (with stuff you already own)

8. Not updating passwords on your outdated accounts

Our first email accounts had passwords like myredcat. That was thought to be fine at the beginning of the internet, but it doesn’t cut it anymore. If you haven’t updated those old passwords, hackers can easily gain access to those accounts.

Your old accounts likely contain personal information that hackers can use to get access to more current accounts. Always keep your passwords strong and update and delete old accounts you never use. Myspace anyone?

9. They pretend to be buyers

Craiglist and programs like OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace are popular because they are so convenient. Hackers think so too. You ever had someone offer to pay you by check to buy your item? Even better, they offer you more money than you even asked for!

If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Never give out personal information online and never accept checks or money orders in amounts higher than what you are asking.

The scam goes like this: the buyer sends a check for more than they paid for an item. They then ask you to send them the balance they overpaid. But here’s the problem. Their original check bounces, and now you’re out the item you sold and the extra money you sent back. It’s like you’re paying someone to rip you off.

10. New friend requests

Have you ever gotten a friend request from, say, Susan, and thought it was odd since she is already your friend? A common scam is sending links to videos asking if it’s you inside. Don’t open the video and don’t accept the friend request. You should vet every new friend request before you accept.

Look for these tell-tale signs the friend request is a scammer:

  • A brand new account.
  • Only one photo.
  • No relevant details.
  • You don’t share any mutual friends.

Scammers have also been known to troll companies’ Facebook pages and look for people asking for help. When they know you are already waiting for the company to contact you, they strike.

They create a seemingly identical match to the company profile and ask for your account information. This happens a lot with PayPal and other services like it. Don’t fall for it.

11. Public Wi-Fi

We have covered the risks of public Wi-Fi many times and it’s a popular place to steal your information. Anytime you use an unsecured network to check your bank account or use a website containing important personal information, hackers can gain access. Heres how to stay safe on public Wi-Fi.

12. Online shopping

Anytime you shop online, you put yourself at risk. Every shopping website out there will promise you it’s secure. Unfortunately, data breaches happen to everyone and hackers have stolen payment information from top retailers.

Using a secondary method when shopping online like PayPal or Apple Pay is the smartest way to protect your information. Tap or click here for the 5 safest ways to pay online. (Hint: Don’t use your credit card).

13. Sneaky withdrawals

Hackers can get your credit card info from a data breach, but they can also get it when you swipe your card at gas stations, grocery stores or your local retailers.

Once they have your credit card information, they typically start small to sneak it past you. They’ll take $20 here, $30 there, and if you don’t notice or lock down your card, they keep increasing it. Always read your bank and credit card statements to look for any unauthorized charges and report them immediately.

14. Hacker pop-ups

A little goes a long way. Hackers get more clever by the day and have introduced little pop-ups to offer you convenient services. They can help you set up your Roku or offer tech support if you are struggling with your online services or programs. If you’ve had sudden video pop-ups, you may have been hacked.

15. Misspelling opportunities

We all have fat thumbs occasionally, but did you know your clumsy thumbs could lead you directly into a hacker’s world? Thieves commonly create websites that look identical to the one you were going to, but the website URL is off by a letter or number. This is a phishing tactic that people commonly fall for. Always double-check the web address before entering any personal information.

16. Hackers have patience

Hackers should be Hollywood actors because they absolutely know how to play the game and make you fall for it. They have patience and are willing to wait you out. They will have a conversation, build trust with you and wait for the perfect opportunity to make that sale.

IT help scams work like this. They don’t try to make a sale right away. They wait until you believe they are a genuine IT company. Employment scams are similar and these hackers have real patience.

They may provide you with a fake employment contract and truly look and sound like a real company. These job offers really have malware hidden inside of them.

17. They hide in plain sight

Just because a website looks normal doesn’t mean it is. Anytime you are online, you should be on the lookout for suspicious activity. Often malicious links will be lurking on regular websites. All you have to do is click on them and your device is infected.

You can protect yourself by making sure your browser is up to date and by keeping a reliable antivirus product active on your computer. Tap or click here for help in choosing the best antivirus software for PC or Mac.

18. It’s easy to repel them

Hackers want you to think they are scarier than they really are. They are only scary if you think they don’t exist and leave yourself open for obvious attacks. Repelling hackers is easy, here’s how:

  • Always use strong passwords.
  • Don’t click on suspicious links in emails or on websites you aren’t familiar with.
  • Ignore phone calls from numbers you aren’t familiar with.
  • Use payment systems like PayPal and ApplePay to keep your information secure.
  • Stay off public Wi-Fi, but if you have to use it, connect with a VPN.
  • Make sure the smart devices you own are 2FA enabled when available.

19. They love your need to have so many gadgets

We are all over-connected in today’s world. We have smart coffee pots, smart assistants, even smart scales. Hackers love this. Anything with Bluetooth is more exciting for them. Leave it open and you are leaving an open network for hackers to jump into and steal your information.

20. They are in the app store too

App stores aren’t a place you expect hackers to lurk, but yes, they are there too. So Android and iPhone owners, watch out. There is a constantly evolving list of bad apps that you need to delete to stay safe. Scam or malware-laced apps make it to the official app stores all the time.

These 20 security secrets are just some of the many tactics hackers use to get at your information. There is no need to panic. It is easier than you think to arm yourself against these sneaky scammers. If you do fall victim to a scam, here are three immediate steps to take.

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