founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos accused the National Enquirer of politically motivated blackmail late Thursday, and published a threatening email from an executive at the supermarket tabloid’s parent company. One of the many lessons from that controversy is don’t take photos that might compromise your privacy and, if you do, don’t send them via text message or email to another party. Many people would refrain from doing so.
However, there are other ways people compromise their online security every day. If you’re like the majority of Americans, you’ve put yourself in danger online. Some 92% of internet users in the U.S. have engaged in at least one risky online behavior in the past year, a survey released Thursday by CreditCards.com found. The most common poor security practice was reusing the same password for multiple websites: 82% of people admitted to doing exactly that.
‘You need to be your own advocate when it comes to data security.’
The survey of more than 1,200 adults, which was conducted by YouGov, asked about risky behavior like using public Wi-Fi networks, posting your date of birth on social media, and using ATMs that are not inside bank branches.
Despite their lax security practices, many Americans say a data breach would be worse than a physical home break-in, according to the survey.
“You need to be your own advocate when it comes to data security,” said CreditCards.com analyst Ted Rossman. “There have been so many high-profile data breaches that I’d assume your personal data has already been compromised. Take smart steps to reduce your risk of identity theft.”
The study comes after a separate survey released by Google
on Tuesday found that many people overestimate their internet security. Most people (69%) would give themselves an A or B score when it comes to how they manage the security of online accounts, and 61% say they are “too smart” to fall for a phishing attack, a scam that tricks a user into clicking on a nefarious link.
But many do fall for these attacks: phishing scams are on the rise and people lost more than $676 million to them last year. Here are some steps you can take to be more secure:
Never reuse passwords
Not reusing any passwords is one easy way to secure your online accounts. Of the 82% of people who have reused online passwords, according to the CreditCards.com study, 61% use the same password at least half the time and 22% always do.
One way to avoid doing this is to use a password manager that saves unique passwords for every website. Options include Dashlane, LastPass, 1Password, and Password Boss. Options include Dashlane, LastPass, 1Password, and Password Boss. They range in cost from $2 to $10 per month in subscription fees for premium accounts and most have free options available. Only 24% of Americans use a password manager, the Google survey found.
Use two-factor authentication
In addition to password managers, you can turn on two-factor authentication to put an extra layer of security on your accounts. This form of security requires users to type in a code that they retrieve from another device, like a phone, which presumably only the user has access to, to access the account. A growing number of websites use two-factor authentication. The website 2FA allows users to search any site they are logging into to see if it offers the feature.
Freeze your credit
Freezing your credit is now free and recommended by many security professionals. Despite this, only 24% of adults have ever frozen their credit, according to the latest survey. Rossman said this is “the best way” to prevent identity theft. “In addition, monitor your credit scores and reports regularly to make sure everything looks right,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bezos is attempting to find out how AMI managed to end up with personal photographs. In January, the National Enquirer published photos and text messages that Bezos had shared privately with his mistress. Bezos and his wife subsequently announced they’re getting divorced. In his blog post on Thursday evening, Bezos said he hired security expert Gavin de Becker to investigate the leaked photos.
Get a daily roundup of the top reads in personal finance delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to MarketWatch’s free Personal Finance Daily newsletter. Sign up here.