Do you enjoy watching Mr. Robot? I know I make time to see Rami Malek do his thing on the hit TV show about ethical hacking on Cox cable every week. Unfortunately, Elliot Alderson, Malek’s character on the show, is at best an optimistic on-screen representation of the hacker demographic.

That’s not to say ethical hackers don’t exist. They do exist, often as a lose collective like Anonymous, and go after companies or governments that are abusing the trust and power they hold. But other than the fictional Elliot, there are few instances of digital platforms being used to benefit internet users. From hackers to companies to the random websites you may land on, everyone wants to keep tabs on you. If you want to keep your privacy intact and protected, then the information below may prove useful to you.  

Protect Digital Privacy: Stop These Risky Online Habits  

For their trouble, most often remain anonymous or risk dire payback from the less-than-ethical businesses, governments, or applications they expose. However, the much more common variety is the unethical hacker or cybercriminal. These lurk almost everywhere on the internet, constantly trying to gain access to any information or device they can infiltrate. Worst-case scenarios involve using this information or device access to carry out frauds, data breaches, ransomware attacks, and much more.  

At the very least, cybercriminals can passively snoop on you, sometimes literally watching you through a compromised network with a camera device. That’s not to mention the countless websites and third-party advertisers that you actively allow to access things like your device identity, browsing habits, and even microphone or camera access. Healthy skepticism is a fine line to walk, but it is a walk that you’ll just have to learn. You can start with stopping certain habits that increase the risk to your privacy, such as the ones below: 

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Using Weak Passwords or the Same Password for Everything  

This is Digital Security 101. A weak password is a huge risk. It is particularly susceptible to brute force attacks. This is a method hackers use to “guess” the correct password with an algorithm that tries all possible permutations and combinations. A weak password is easier for the brute force software to crack. And if you have the same password for everything, that breach probably means all your accounts with the same password are compromised.  

As a rule, always use a strong alphanumeric password that also contains symbols and a mix of upper/lower case letters. This makes it much harder for the brute force application to guess the right combination, mainly because of the increased permutations. Also, make it a habit to create a new password for each individual account or service you use.  

Connecting Unscanned Hardware to Your Device 

Make it a habit to always scan any external hardware like a flash drive or an external hard drive whenever you connect it to your device. This is especially important when the device connected does not belong to you. Even if it belongs to a friend or a colleague, the chances of it being infected with malware are too significant to ignore. Simply put, never connect an unscanned device to your computer, and avoid connecting any devices that you don’t personally own or recognize.  

Downloading Unlicensed Applications or APKs  

Android smartphones offer many options when it comes to customizability and personalization. However, that also poses certain risks. Many people can bypass Google’s Play Store ecosystem and download third-party apps that are still designed for Android use. While this may allow you access to illegal versions of streaming subscription platforms, it also opens up your device to a very real risk of infection.  

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Google’s Play Protect feature does its best to ensure no fraudulent apps or malware make it onto the official app library. But an APK you download can bypass these restrictions since they don’t exist on Play Store. Instead, they require you to download them from shady-looking websites. Even if you do find a version that seems to work fine, your APK download application may still be hiring malware like spyware or a botnet in the code. Unless you know the author of the APK application, you’re practically trusting the developer behind an illegal application to not abuse your trust. You can’t be sure unless you access the application’s source code, and you need to have coding knowledge to be able to identify any suspicious strings of code.  

Clicking on Questionable Links or Emails  

Phishing is a very simple form of cyberattack. But surprisingly, it is also the one that people fall for most commonly. Phishing is when a cybercriminal pretending to be a legitimate business or organization sends you a link that can compromise your device security.  

Phishing techniques have gotten more convincing over the years, with phishers often successfully making you click suspicious links that appear to be from your bank or even the social media platforms you use daily. Suitably worded phishing emails are often the cause behind many data breaches. Therefore, make it a habit to ignore any suspicious emails from unknown senders. Moreover, cultivate the habit to treat any digital communication you receive with healthy skepticism.  

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