Are You Guilty of These 7 Cybersecurity Mistakes?

Updated on June 10, 2023

Cybersecurity isn’t always front of mind when you’re using your computer, phone or tablet. And yet, anyone can fall victim to being hacked or getting frauded. In the US alone, the FBI reckons nearly $7 billion dollars was lost to online fraud in 2021, and that number is only going to increase. 

To keep you out of that data and make you safe online, we’re going to look at the seven common cybersecurity mistakes most people make and show you how to avoid them in the future. 

Ignoring updates

We’re all guilty of ignoring that little orange dot on Windows or the update icon on your phone or tablet. We get it – they always come when you’re in the middle of doing things; you don’t want to wait when you want to get your laptop in your bag and head home. 

Those updates can be really important for your device, though. Microsoft, Google, and Apple products are under constant attack, and the companies are on the ball with stopping hackers and patching vulnerabilities. It’s up to you to install the updates, so hackers’ attempts are in vain. 

As soon as you get prompted for an update, find the next best time to install it. Bigger updates can usually be done overnight, and Android devices will usually let you schedule an update for a convenient time. 

Running old operating systems

A good operating system (OS) is like a comfy sofa – it might not look so great now but it gets the job done, and you know how to work with it. 

However, the older the OS is, the harder it will be to patch and the manufacturer may even stop supporting it. This happened in 2020 when Microsoft finally ended extended business support for Windows 7, for example. 

While you might struggle to find software like a VPN for Windows 7, there are some that are still compatible with the older OS. It’s still a good idea to consider upgrading to Windows 10 or 11 soon, though. 

  1. Not checking your email senders

When your Black Friday deals land in your inbox, how conscious are you of checking their legitimacy? 

Email fraud, such as phishing – a scam email pretending to be a trusted company – is by far and away the most common online scam. It’s easy to fall into but just as easy to prevent, too. 

When you get an email, you should always check who sent it. A legitimate email will have the company URL in it, like this:

JPDZxV3gQIn7MHwlT2 FkDcgQCUOmXtwRUDPJKCjIME4fBzy8qTsbD50xRP8IXgDorQL4Gaba9eUIG3 odg ePhvIuglapDAD7F sK1XonpP8NAsPeGkRvmulws5mfZ9yVUQ8fFqWsROP GV4Qg2 4fc7q2 1sQNBJWeGHrWtGGnwOFYVN Mvz5qGr04zg

On the other hand, a scammy email address will look something like this:

See how the email address doesn’t look like it’s from American Express? 

If in doubt about an email, go to the website in your browser rather than clicking on a link and look for the deal, notification, or error message yourself.

Using public internet without a VPN

In the world of remote working, it’s pretty normal to spend time on your laptop in a cafe or co-working space. Did you know that when you use WiFi, it’s easy for someone to track everything you do? 

If you access the internet on your phone, tablet, or laptop using a public network, you need to be using a VPN to protect your data. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Choose a reliable VPN provider;
  2. Download the software onto all of your devices;
  3. Set it to connect every time your turn on your device;
  4. Check that it’s being used when you’re on public networks.

Hackers will no longer be able to see the information you’re sending, like your work email password or your card details when you’re buying something online. 

Forgetting to use anti-virus tools

Even with a completely up-to-date device, nefarious software can get onto your device. This is why you need good anti-virus and anti-malware tools. 

Lots of people will already have common software downloaded, but how often do you run a scan? You can set your tools to do regular scans automatically, and you can click to run a scan whenever you might be concerned too.

Each tool will be different, but in general to run an antivirus scan on most tools:

  1. Open your antivirus software – this might be one you pay for or one that comes with your device, like Windows Defender or Samsung Knox. 
  2. Look through the options and find the button that will let you run a scan.
  3. Give your device time to check for anything suspicious on your computer or phone.
  4. Anything unusual or untoward will be flagged, and you’ll be given guidance on how to fix it.

Do take care not to fall for scammers offering scans, “checkups”, or “computer health checks”. Only use a tool you’ve chosen yourself and that you trust – any pop-up offering this service is likely a virus or scam itself. 

Not setting up 2FA

2FA, or 2-factor authentication, is when you need to use two different sign-in methods to get into your accounts. This usually means that after you enter your password, you’ll get an SMS code, a code by email, or need to enter a code from an authenticator app. 

We get how annoying it can be to add another step to log in to your banking or social media, but it’s better than the alternative which is getting your banking or personal data hacked and cash stolen. 

The way you go about setting up 2FA is different across your accounts. Companies do try to make it easy though because your data security is worth a lot to them. 

Do a quick search for “how to set up 2fa for…” and you’ll find step-by-step guides online.

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Declining backups

You’ve probably heard at work that you should always back up your data. It’s so common to hear because it’s really important. 

A common hack that can happen is ransomware. This is where malicious software gets onto your computer and encrypts your hard drive. To get back into your device and data, you’ll be asked to send payment, usually by cryptocurrency, to get a key to unlock. 

This can be super scary, especially when you have family photos or even work data on your devices. If you have everything backed up to a cloud service or on an external drive, it’s much less of a concern. Some common cloud services you can use include:

  • Google Drive;
  • Dropbox;
  • OneDrive.

You can usually set up auto-updates for these services across all your tech, so you don’t even need to remember to back up everything that’s of value.

We all make mistakes, especially when we spend a lot of time online. If you can work to avoid these common issues, you should be more secure in your online life. 

Article by:
Kenny Trinh
While he’s not editing articles on the latest tech trends, he likes to discuss business and entrepreneur. His writing has been featured in national publications such as Forbes, RD, Yahoo Finance, HackerNoon among others.

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