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Friend or Foe? Technology in Our Everyday Lives: Habits

According to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2017 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, identity theft was the second biggest category of consumer complaints, comprising close to 14 percent of all consumer complaints received. To this point, are there any habits you have that may be putting your personal information at risk in public? Take a look at some examples below.

Charging your phone in public ports

While the convenience of a quick mobile phone charge in an airport or conference center lobby may seem benign, hackers can collect your information while your device is connected to a public power strip. It’s called “juice jacking” and can compromise everything from your email, photos, contact lists, and texts. Experts advise instead of using ports, using your own charger or a portable USB battery pack.

Freely providing your name and email address

What may seem like a harmless sign-up sheet at your local gym or retailer for a chance to win something free could open the door for a hacker to steal your identity. Details such as your name and address “could be a [hacker’s] gateway into your financial world.”

Using public wi-fi

It may be tempting to use public wifi in your hotel room, at your mall or local coffee shop, but the risks can be substantial. “One of the biggest threats with free wifi is the ability for hackers to position themselves between you and the connection point. So, instead of talking directly with the hotspot, you end up sending your information to the hacker.”

Harvard Business Review's Luke Bencie offers a list of ways to protect yourself against public wifi threats:

  • Don’t use public Wi-Fi to shop online, log in to your financial institution, or access other sensitive sites — ever
  • Use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, to create a network-within-a-network, keeping everything you do encrypted
  • Implement two-factor authentication when logging into sensitive sites, so even if malicious individuals have the passwords to your bank, social media, or email, they won’t be able to log in
  • Only visit websites with HTTPS encryption when in public places, as opposed to lesser-protected HTTP addresses
  • Turn off the automatic Wi-Fi connectivity feature on your phone, so it won’t automatically seek out hotspots
  • Monitor your Bluetooth connection when in public places to ensure others are not intercepting your transfer of data
  • Buy an unlimited data plan for your device and stop using public Wi-Fi altogether

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