Most people fear their email or social media accounts being hacked but don’t know about some simple steps to prevent this from happening.
Be aware: your digital privacy may be breached through hacking.
What you share by email or text may not be as private as you think. An email or text is like a letter that you send in the post. People shouldn’t read it, as they should respect your privacy, but someone could see it. These messages are transmitted from one device to another as a digital code, which can be scrambled, or encrypted, as it is sent. Your message goes first from the sender to a server and then to the recipient. In the process it’s possible for your message to seen by hackers or people who illegally access the code. Free public wifi sites are often not encrypted, so are not secure from hackers. Avoid them. (The University’s wifi is secure, however).
Hackers use several techniques to invade your privacy. They might impersonate a company that you usually interact with in an email or text and ask you for personal information such as passwords or bank information. They might send a link, that when clicked, releases viruses or malware onto your device.
Lots of hacking attempts start with the hacker getting hold of the victim’s password. According to one online organisation, seven out of ten victims of hacking indirectly provide their password to the hacker. Using the same password for lots of accounts, or passwords that are easy to guess, helps hackers invade your privacy. Protect yourself by using strong passwords and additional protection such as two factor authentication or password reset checks for all your accounts.
But email scams are only the tip of the iceberg. Social media is very attractive to hackers: it’s a quicker way to spread malware, viruses, and perpetrate identity fraud or scams, partly because people are more likely to trust and click on links they see on social media.
Hackers can combine information about you from different social media sources to guess your identity. They look for names and addresses: your full name, names of pets, mother’s maiden name and so on – all of which may be used as passwords or could verify your identity. Those cute online quizzes which ask you to share the name of the street you grew up on, or the name of your first pet may be used for identity theft. Of course hackers will also look for email addresses and phone numbers as well as places you regularly go – such as bank branches.
Finally, stay away from questionable sites where malware is common: illegal download sites and pornography sites are riddled with viruses and malware.
Protect yourself from being hacked in these ways:
Keep your personal information to a minimum on social media sites, even on ‘private’ social profiles.
Don’t engage with spam emails which ask for your information.
Sometimes it’s hard to identify that an email is spam, so think before you click on any link in an email or text.
Be wary about clicking links from friends in social media; you never know if they’ve been hacked.
Create high quality, strong passwords that protect your accounts.
Use two-factor authentication or password-reset checks for all your accounts.
Use software programs such as anti-virus to block malware viruses or other hackers on your own computer. And keep them updated!
Sign out of accounts once you’ve finished using them.