5 Hidden Ways You’re Exposed Online

Many people today take advantage of the Internet’s convenience. You’re accustomed to instant access to vast amounts of information, free Wi-Fi at most coffee shops and other businesses, and even have it built right into your mobile devices. But are you thinking about the ways you could be exposing your personal information online? Most people don’t, but being careless can pose some serious risks to your privacy and your online reputation.
1. Social Games

If you’ve ever played those social networking games in which you use the month, date, and year of your birthday to come up with a crazy name for yourself, don’t do it again. Why? You’re basically handing over your birthdate to potential hackers, which could be used to authenticate your login credentials on another website.

2. Cookies (No, Not the Sugary Kind)

Most websites use cookies to track a user’s behavior online. Oftentimes, it’s innocent and used to make future logins easier or to give advertisers your data. But hackers use cookies to take over your browsing session, allowing them to masquerade as you, post on your behalf on social networks, and even gain access to your financial accounts.

When possible, use a secure site URL — those beginning with HTTPS — to ensure that you send encrypted data over the network. Also, make it a habit to block cookies in your browser.

3. Social Networks Comments and Images

Be careful what comments and images you post to your social networks. Even older adults make a social faux pas now and then, posting comments and images that considered inappropriate. This can lead to a damaged reputation and even prevent you from landing a job. More employers are monitoring job applicants online as part of the hiring process. One inappropriate photo or comment, even from a few years ago, could cause you to lose the job of your dreams.

Keep everything private and refrain from posting offensive or inappropriate content anywhere online.

4. Identity Theft

According to author Michael Fertik, sharing too much information via social networks gives hackers ammunition to steal your identity and destroy your reputation. Information such as the names of your children, pets, the town you live in, and other seemingly harmless tidbits are just what a hacker needs to crack your passwords.

Use sound password-creation practices, such as combining uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid easily guessed passwords such as your pet’s or child’s name.

5. E-mail and Phishing Scams

In a phishing scam, hackers create a replica of a website, such as a financial institution, and send e-mails to users requesting they login or reset their passwords by clicking a link. These sites are typically designed to capture the data you enter, giving hackers access to the otherwise secured and protected website using your identity.

Never enter login information on a site that you’ve accessed by clicking a link in an e-mail or message. Check with your financial institution to find out if the e-mail was legitimate, or type in the URL of the website in question directly into the address bar.

The Internet adds convenience to your life, but it can also pose a number of dangers to your privacy and your reputation. Being cautious about the information you share online, using strong passwords, and maximizing your browser settings can help you maintain privacy and safety.

A copyright story from the Bangor Daily News
By Janice Thompson, Posted July 11, 2013, at 8:38 a.m.