The internet can be a wonderful place for resources, entertainment and networking with the world being at your fingertips, however it can also turn into a world of complete pain and anguish as soon as you realize that you make a single, stupid mistake. This can range from arguing with internet trolls on message boards, using “password,” “1234,” or “abcd” as your password, or allowing some random web app to freely access your information. Much like making mistakes in a traditional, “real-world” sense, any dumb mistake you make online can (and likely WILL) come back to bite you if you’re not careful. Adam Dachis at Lifehacker offers a few suggestions on how you can save yourself from doing avoidable, stupid things on the internet.
1) Stupid Thing #1: You Undervalue Your Personal Data
While signing up for Google services or Facebook is free, you’re potentially handing the valuable commodity of your personal information. Companies want this information in order to target advertisements that are deemed more relevant to you. Look into your browser’s “Do Not Track” options, and adjust your privacy settings on social media sites (i.e., Facebook, Google +, etc.) to edit app access to certain apps.
2) Stupid Thing #2: You Submit Sensitive Information Over an Insecure Connection
Do you know where it says “http://” in the URL bar at the top of this internet browser you’re using to read this. Whenever you send over personal information across public/insecure internet connections (credit card info, online purchases, login credentials, etc.), MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE that the URL bar begins with “https://”, because that extra “s” allows data to transfer securely between your computer and the service’s servers.
3) Stupid Thing #3: Feeding the Trolls
Don’t do it. DON’T. DO. IT! Don’t involve yourself with near-endless, useless, hate-and-anger-filled threads and debates with cowards (i.e., “trolls”) who hide behind a monitor and keyboard, pollute the internet with hateful garbage rather than helpful, collaborative interaction. Remember that the trolls are not attacking you or your beliefs —they’re attacking their own boredom.
4) Stupid Thing #4 :You Leave Private Information in Your Web Browser
Stop staying logged into accounts on your computer when not using it, as anyone casually borrowing your computer for a quick search can easily find your personal stuff (including — but not limited to — your web browsing history. Be sure to log out of your accounts, lock out your computer with a password, close the browser window, clear your browsing history and cookies, and add a guest account to your computer to protect your personal info and files.
5) Stupid Thing #5 : You Don’t Keep a Backup of Online Data
You should ALWAYS backup your data ON your computer, but you should also backup your data available ONLINE. While you can backup documents, pictures and videos on a external hard drive (or cloud services like Dropbox, Box, Copy, etc), you can also download backup data of your Facebook, Google services/accounts, and much more just from digging into your account settings. This is good just in case when that data is NO LONGER in your possession and NO LONGER accessible.
6) Stupid Thing 6# : You Assume Your Posts and Comments Are Anonymous
Not that it’s impossible to comment anonymously online, but many people don’t follow strict protocol to remain anonymous. For example, even if you don’t use your real name and use a pen name/pseudonym, your comments can and likely will stick. You might use that pen name in the coming years, and your activity and comments will gain its own reputation, and if your name is tied to that pen name on a single web service, it takes ONE Google search to find out who you are. Remember: THINK BEFORE YOU TYPE!
7) Stupid Thing #7 : You Let People Track Your Whereabouts
When you check into locations on Foursquare and Facebook while you’re there, you’re likely letting the world know that you are NOT AT YOUR HOUSE, therefore, PLEASE ROB ME. Don’t worry though, you can always check-in PRIVATELY on Foursquare and you can always tag yourself via Facebook when you return home later. You can still share your jet-set lifestyle, but just be smart about it.
8) Stupid Thing #8 : You Use an Insecure Password That You Rarely (or Never) Change:
Okay. Change your password every 12-18 months, never use keyboard patterns (qwerty, 12345), never use personal info like birthdays, refrain from dictionary words, use letters/numbers/uppercase/lowercase, never use repeating characters, don;t use the same password for different accounts, and CREATE YOUR OWN.