It’s easy enough to shrug off every hacking incident that makes it onto the news as something that only happens to someone else. Because usually, it happens to other people or big conglomerates.
Those people made mistakes that gave the hackers an in right? Or they were big enough targets to warrant the attention. Besides, why would hackers be interested in getting into old regular joe’s computers or smartphones? Joe doesn’t have anything they would want.
Here’s why that’s not true. Take a look at how easy it is to hack the average person.
An Easy Target
In reality, hackers have many reasons for targeting just about anyone and they use a whole host of methods to do so. One of the universal traits of hacking attempts is that hackers try to target as many people as possible. That way, they get to spread a wide net and catch a whole group of unsuspecting victims.
Hackers want to take the easiest route and make easy money. That’s a pretty well-known fact by now. This means the people who make it easy for them to get in and steal information are prized finds. As ethical hacker Terry Cutler said, everyone on the planet is a target.
Don’t think that this is limited to sensitive data that people usually take steps to protect – like credit card numbers. Criminals seek out all sorts of information that can be shared or sold on the dark web. Anything that can be used to gain more usable data or assets later is still valuable.
The Hacking Checklist: How Easily Can They Get Information?
Here are some things that people typically do (or don’t do!) that make them easy targets:
- Connecting to public WiFi without protection
- Not changing the original passwords devices came with
- Having no additional network security, like a VPN and a strong firewall
- Not updating their apps, programs, and device firmware regularly
- Falling for phishing emails and messages
- Reusing the same password on more than one account
- Not using a password manager for safer and stronger passwords
- Oversharing on social media
- Not correctly vetting apps before downloading them
- Not setting up locks on devices
- Visiting sketchy or unencrypted Websites
Hackers generally take advantage of people’s laziness and lack of awareness. Most people have heard of at least a few security taboos in this checklist but fail to implement them properly because they’ve become complacent. Hackers are hard at work though, exploiting that complacency.
Cybercriminals (hackers and scammers) have a considerable arsenal of attacks at their disposal. Phishing is the most common and well-known attack that everyone has dealt with at least once in their lives. But there are also SSL stripping attacks, man-in-the-middle attacks, and fake WiFi hotspot spoofing. These only barely scratch the surface too.
Keep in mind that a hacker doesn’t always need to use some unusual approach to target someone. They can find a lot of information by looking at someone’s IP address, trailing their social media, and stealing information from unsecured devices or networks.
Basic Cybersecurity Measures Still Work
After hearing all of this, it’s easy to panic. But don’t ditch the phone and laptop for life among the Amish yet. There’s no need to hurriedly delete every social media account and search for “ways to hide my IP” either because there are basic cybersecurity tools and habits that do enough to protect digital data when appropriately implemented.
Habits: Protecting Passwords, Adjusting Privacy Settings
There are many things people can do to make themselves smaller targets for criminals. This includes things like adjusting their privacy settings on social media and following password best practices.
The latter includes changing default passwords on devices, never using the same password twice, and never writing them down. Other good habits include locking devices like smartphones and laptops and not oversharing personal details online.
Tools: VPNs, Password Managers, Two-Factor Authentication
Fancy security tools aren’t necessary. Stay safe by using universally approved software like password managers, virtual private networks (VPNs), and two-factor authentication. These tools are widely available and easy to use. Two-factor authentication, for example, is integrated with most apps and online platforms these days.
Then there’s also the basics like anti-virus programs and firewalls that should always be installed. But remember to keep these tools up to date, along with other apps and device operating systems like Windows and Android.
It isn’t necessary to become a cybersecurity expert overnight to avoid being targeted by hackers. There are simple things that everyone can do to shield themselves from frequent hacking attempts. Essential preparation and good security habits tend to be enough for the average person to protect their devices – and themselves – from outside attacks.