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20 bad Internet behaviors – and how to fix them

It would be impossible to describe all the bad things about the internet. Hackers, viruses, scams, and many other dangerous things loom online. It’s our job to protect ourselves as best as we can. Unfortunately, many internet users are negligent and careless when it comes to their security online. Doing a little online shopping while using free public Wi-Fi. Downloading files from sketchy websites. And, of course, creating easy-to-guess passwords, because “no one is interested in hacking my accounts.” There’s no way you can justify these risky actions. So here’s a helpful list of top 20 bad online habits you should change ASAP.

Aurelija Andriekutė

Aurelija Andriekutė

20 bad Internet behaviors – and how to fix them

Breaking bad online habits (and replacing them with good ones)

While there are countless ways you can put yourself in trouble online, these 20 dangerous internet habits are too common to be ignored. So let’s roll up our sleeves and fix them one by one.

1. Using the same password for everything

This is one of the worst digital habits to have. If a hacker somehow manages to get that single password you use for every login, they will have no trouble accessing all your online accounts. So don’t be lazy and think of a strong, unique password each time you create a new account, especially for banking or shopping sites. You can also get a reliable password manager to help you remember all your unique passwords.

2. Ignoring software updates

You, me, and the majority of users find software updates annoying as they tend to pop up exactly when you don’t have time to deal with them. So what you normally do, is hit the “Postpone” button thinking you will get back to it later. But you never do.

Keeping antivirus/antimalware programs up-to-date is crucial to make sure your device stays protected from malicious threats. If you don’t feel like checking for updates regularly, just enable your applications to do it automatically.

3. Downloading free software

There are all kinds of free software available online. You could also find websites that offer to download paid software for free. Before downloading any of it, you must ask yourself “why is it free?”

Usually, the answer is that it will either collect a lot of data about you, bombard you with ads, it’s stolen (and therefore illegal), or it’s actually malware in disguise. Therefore, you should always be very careful when you download any kind of software. Read reviews, make sure the site is legitimate, and have your antivirus ready – just in case.

4. Not using two-factor authentication

While 2FA makes it extremely difficult for hackers to get into your private files and emails, too many people still don’t use this awesome security feature.

Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to your account and is available on many online services, including Gmail, Google Drive, Apple’s iCloud, Twitter, and Facebook.

5. No lock screen protection

Unless you take your phone everywhere you go, without leaving it unattended even for a tiny second, you simply must use some sort of lock screen protection: pattern, PIN code, or password.

If you don’t lock your screen, anyone can install malware or spyware on your phone without you noticing. You should also enable remote location and wiping if possible, so that if someone nabs your phone, you can erase all your private information remotely.

6. No computer password

People store much more private and sensitive information on their computers than anywhere else but often do nothing to protect it. Don’t make it easy for someone to install spyware or steal your private information. Put a password on your computer and lock it when you leave — even for a few minutes.

7. No antivirus and antimalware

While ignoring antivirus updates is a bad digital habit, not having any software that protects you from malicious threats is even worse. Therefore, now would be a perfect time to get yourself reliable malware protection. Good news if you already use NordVPN — our Threat Protection feature keeps your browsing safe and protects you from accidentally downloading malware.

8. Uploading files to the cloud as they are

You really need to save those precious GBs on your device’s storage, so you sync your files to the cloud. If you think that your data is safe while sitting comfy in the cloud… Well, it’s not. Most cloud companies can access your files if they want. Also, they are vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breaches, which may put your sensitive data in the wrong hands. You can avoid that by encrypting your files before uploading them to the cloud to keep your secrets private no matter what. Easy-to-use data encryption tools, such as NordLocker, will help.

9. Clicking on links in strange emails

This is a prime example of bad online behavior. A lot of hacking and malware is successful because people open emails they receive from random strangers. This is known as phishing, and it happens to more people than one could expect. The purpose of phishing emails is to lure users into visiting fake websites. From there, hackers can easily install malware on their victim’s device or steal their passwords, credit card details, and other private information.

So the lesson here is simple: if you don’t know or trust the source, don’t click the link.

10. Downloading attachments without thinking

While we’re at it — don’t download any sketchy attachments either. If you don’t know the sender, just don’t click on anything in the email you’ve received. This is especially true if you’re at work, as hackers can gain access to your company’s sensitive files.

11. Using HTTP sites

If you haven’t been paying attention to the websites’ URLs when browsing the Internet, you should start doing it. “HTTP” in the prefix of the address indicates that your connection is not secure, meaning that snoopers can see the data you share with that website. That is especially dangerous for online payments and cases when you need to provide personal information. To stay on the safe side, only browse sites that use an SSL —encrypted connection, indicated by HTTPS.

If for some reason you need to visit unprotected websites, enable the NordVPN extension first. It will secure your HTTP traffic with strong encryption.

12. Checking your bank account on public Wi-Fi

This one is especially painful since we all love free Wi-Fi. However, public wireless networks usually lack proper protection, leaving their users open to man-in-the-middle attacks and other nefarious ways for hackers and snoopers to get your information.

When on public Wi-Fi, don’t check any sensitive information, especially if it’s work- or money-related. Or better still — get yourself a VPN and keep your communications safe even on public Wi-Fi.

13. Clicking on virus warning pop-ups

When visiting certain websites, you may face threatening pop-ups claiming to have found malware or viruses on your computer. Don’t click on them as they will more often than not try installing malware or adware on your device.

14. Using “123456” as your password

While we all know that we need stronger, better passwords to keep our data safe, the most common passwords found in data breaches are “password” and “123456.” Don’t become a victim of cybercrime — get creative and think of a good, uncrackable password that will keep your data safe from prying eyes.

15. Downloading files from sketchy sites

Downloading free pirated movies, games, and programs is not cool at all, and it’s one of the easiest ways to get yourself malware. Be very careful on sites you don’t trust, even better — don’t go there at all.

16. Weak Wi-Fi password

If you don’t have a strong password on your home Wi-Fi, you may be susceptible to easy hacking. If cybercriminals hack your network, they can snoop on you and collect your private information.

One of the best ways to create (and more importantly — remember) your passwords is to use passphrases. You can use the words of that song that you like, or come up with an original phrase and then shorten it, using special symbols and numbers. For instance: “I care about my privacy. My VPN provider is NordVPN” phrase could be converted to a very strong password “1camp.MVpiN”

17. Agreeing to all terms on software install

Reading terms and conditions every time you want to install a new app is a real pain, and no one’s surprised that you hit “Agree” without bothering to look at what’s written there. However, you should try to make reading at least a part of those terms a new habit.

By agreeing to the terms without reading them, you may be allowing the software to do many things: collect information about you, listen to your conversations, install additional software you don’t need, etc.

18. Dismissing privacy concerns

If you have a feeling someone may be watching you through your webcam, you are not paranoid. Things like snooping, webcam hacking, and location tracking happen every day, but we are still not used to taking all the warnings seriously.

If you suspect someone is accessing your webcam without your consent, don’t ignore your sixth sense. Better learn how to find out you if your camera has been hacked and what steps to take to get out of this mess.

19. Thinking your smartphone is inherently secure

As you probably take your phone everywhere you go, it knows you better than your diary or any living person. So why do you keep it unprotected?

With so much sensitive information residing on your phone, securing your mobile traffic should be the first thing you do after you get a new phone. Start by managing your security settings, adding lock screen protection and downloading the NordVPN app for your iPhone or Android.

20. Not using a VPN when using public Wi-Fi

We have already talked about the dangers of open Wi-Fi networks, so why are you still on that free hotspot with no VPN protection?

As such hotspots can be easily hacked or spoofed by a cybercriminal, securing your connection with a VPN is simply a must. NordVPN protects your data with strong encryption and has a bunch of extra security features to keep you safe from hackers, annoying ads, malware and other security threats.

Dealing with bad habits on the internet will require time and patience. But once you set your mind to it, it will become a second nature. Soon, you won’t even be able to imagine a life without a VPN, password manager, and careful inspection of every email.

Online security starts with a click.

Stay safe with the world’s leading VPN

Aurelija Andriekutė
Aurelija Andriekutė Aurelija Andriekutė
Aurelija is a copywriter at NordVPN. She's eager to help her readers explore what makes the internet run and how to stay safe online.