Are You Browsing The Internet Safely?

What risks are you taking as you browse your favorite websites?

Every day offers up another headline detailing a new phishing scam or sophisticated scheme that hackers are using to prey on unsuspecting internet users. The true worry is that the targets of these online assaults aren’t necessarily high-value targets moving sensitive information around the internet. Instead, the target applies to everyday users who most likely believe they have nothing to fear because their online usage is not suspect.

Unfortunately, the opposite is the case. Hackers know that the people who don’t think they are vulnerable are, indeed, in the most danger. Hackers target known weaknesses and entry points because, with just a little effort, they’re guaranteed to work nearly every time.

Filling In The Details

The latest example of this kind of scam is the one that goes after people who use autofill plug ins in their browsers. This can be very convenient, as it is time consuming and rather boring to have to fill in your personal information each and every time you are filling out a registration form or making a payment.

However, this once simple fix has now turned into a potential vulnerability. As Gizmodo recently reported, using autofill on your Chrome or Safari browser can result in you unwittingly giving away more information than you realize, such as your credit card number. They write, “browsers like Chrome and Safari are set to autofill information into text boxes with data like your phone number, address, credit card number, etc.

Typically, browsers will determine the type of information the site is asking for, then keep the rest. But, Kuosmanen notes, hackers can obscure certain text boxes—meaning users wouldn’t know they’ve been autofilled. And since the malicious websites can be designed to look like pretty much anything, the danger is real.”

Safety vs. Convenience

Like many other scams and hacks, this one exploits people’s laziness–or at least their desire for quick and convenient workarounds for the online tasks we complete every day, like filling out a form. However, the good news is with a few simple workarounds you can avoid these kinds of lowest-common-denominator scams but removing yourself from the target demographic of internet users who have lazy habits.

Get serious about your passwords.

It’s the most commonly-heard piece of infosec advice–and that’s because it’s so true. If you are using simple passwords on sensitive accounts like email, you’re asking for trouble. Even worse, if you’re using the same simple password across all your accounts, you are basically inviting someone to hack your online life.

The fix is to use a password manager that will generate complicated and hard-to-guess passwords for each of your accounts. Even better, enable two factor authentication on your most crucial accounts so that hackers will really struggle to get in.

Disable Autofill

A simple fix to the scenario described above is to disable autofill on your browser. It may take you slightly longer to fill out online forms, but you can rest assured knowing that you’re not at risk.

Use a VPN or incognito browser.

If you’re worried about your online activity being monitored (particularly on a public wifi network, where you’re more vulnerable) use a virtual private network to mask your IP address and encrypt your traffic. Using an incognito browser mode will also prevent people from monitoring your every move.

Clear your browser history often.

People can go months leaving a digital trail behind them in the form of their browser history without ever clearing it. Doing so is leaving yourself at risk. The more cookies and info you allow your browser to collect about you, the more that someone with nefarious aims can potentially use that against you. Wipe the slate clean every few weeks to avoid this.

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