Everyone has bad habits, but some habits are more damaging than others. Although all of them are bad habits, drinking to excess and smoking two packs a day is obviously more dangerous than sneaking an extra piece of cake when no one is looking or making up a lame excuse when you would rather sleep in than join your friends at the gym.
The same is true in the online world. There are plenty of bad habits out there, but some are more dangerous to your reputation and your financial well-being than others. Here are 7 deadly sins you should avoid at all costs. If you recognize any of these online habits it is time to change your ways.
#1. Clicking Before You Think
Just about everyone has received a suspicious email at one time or another. Even if you did not recognize its malicious content at the time, chances are a phishing email has landed in your inbox.
Even the best spam filter cannot keep all of these dangerous messages at bay, and it is what you do next that makes the difference. You should view your email inbox with a suspicious eye, and never click on any link without first verifying the legitimacy of the message and the sender.
#2. Forwarding without Reading
We have all seen those clickbait articles in our Facebook feeds and at the bottom of legitimate news stories, but those headlines are often deceiving. Forwarding links to these kinds of articles without first reading the content is one of the biggest sins of online life.
Don’t forward hoaxes and unverified stories without first checking them out. The forwarding of false information and actual hoaxes is rampant on Facebook, but you can avoid looking foolish with a simple Internet search.
#3. Relying on Passwords Alone
Your password is your first line of defense against hackers and other bad actors online, and you should make your credentials as strong as possible. You should also alter your passwords from site to site and change your passwords often, but that is not enough to protect yourself and your identity.
Setting up two-factor authentication provides a higher level of security for your online life, and you should not be doing business without it. Two-factor authentication takes a number of different forms, like requiring a code sent to your smartphone to authorize a password change or entering a secret PIN only you know. No matter what form it takes two-factor authentication can enhance your security and greatly reduce the risk of id entity theft and other online dangers.
#4. Treating All Social Media Platforms the Same
Social media is a great way to catch up with old friends and make new ones, but treating all platforms the same can be a recipe for disaster. Many people make the mistake of linking their social media accounts, but posting the same message in multiple formats is not necessarily a good idea.
Think about it this way – you want to project a professional image on sites like LinkedIn, but you can let your hair down on platforms like Facebook, SnapChat and Instagram. Keeping your various social personas separate is much safer for your personal and professional well-being.
#5. Thoughtlessly Using Public Wi-Fi
Using public Wi-Fi can be a great way to preserve your precious data minutes, and the ubiquity of public wireless networks makes it hard to resist. With coffee shops, restaurants, airports and malls offering their own Wi-Fi networks, it can be tempting to let your device connect first and think about security later.
Even so, being careless about public Wi-Fi is a huge online error, one that could come back to bite you later. You should never conduct banking or log on to your credit card account while on a public Wi-Fi network, and you should avoid any sites that require you to enter a password. It is just too easy for hackers to penetrate these networks so play it safe and wait until you get back to your home or office.
#6. Sharing Too Much
Oversharing was a much bigger problem in the early days of social media, but it is still just as big a danger. You may know better than to post vacation pics before you get home or post the after-school schedules of your kids, but there are other hidden dangers to avoid as well.
Something as simple as posting the name of your new pet or talking about where you went to high school could render your security questions ineffective and put your identity at risk. Think carefully about what you have already shared online when setting up your passwords and challenge questions, and think about the things you post before you hit send.
#7. Responding to Trolls on Social Media
We have all seen those online trolls that inhabit the comment sections of news websites and social media pages. As tempting as it might be, responding to those online trolls only feeds their egos and makes the situation worse.
There is nothing to gain, and everything to lose, from engaging in a heated Facebook battle or Twitter war. An irritable post could cost you your reputation, even if you were responding to a troll. A post or tweet perceived as racist or sexist could even cost you your job, even if the slight was unintentional. No matter how hard it is, the smart strategy is to ignore the provocation and simply move on.
Taking a good look at your online behavior and avoid the seven blunders listed above to help you avoid common dangers and get more out of your time on the Internet.