By Praveen Kannan and Anna Strokolyst The Hotspot Shield team believes the internet should be open and secure …
Today, we rely on digital devices more than ever before. But unlike in years past, most of these devices – whether they’re E-readers, tablets, laptops, notebooks, smartphones, printers, game consoles, smart home devices, handheld gaming systems, smart TVs, or even mattresses, they can all now connect to the Internet. Because of this, there are tons of ways your digital device could be hacked.
Despite a seemingly endless number of new digital devices connected to the internet, most people using these devices don’t consider safety and security to be a priority.
So why not?
It could be that they assume hackers are only concerned with causing trouble for regular computers—but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, many of these digital devices are far more vulnerable to hacking because users don’t protect them with the necessary security software or take the proper measures to ensure that they are protected.
10 ways your digital device could be hacked
No matter what type of digital device you use, be aware of all of the following risks to your personal information security:
Sending spyware via email
You know those silly pictures or games that your friends are always sending you? Some of them could actually be spyware sent through your friend’s email account. And once spyware is on your mobile device, a hacker can have access to just about anything they want in there.
The mysterious USB drive
If you regularly spend time at your local cafe, you might have seen small USB drives just laying around. Sometimes, these devices could come from people who honestly forgot them and left them behind, but they could also come from hackers who have loaded the USB drive with a virus and are waiting for you to plug the USB drive to your device.
Just viewing a file on the drive is all it takes for a malware to infect your device.
When you’re using a public WiFi network, you’re using what’s known as a “hotspot.” Although they are convenient, they’re also breeding grounds for hackers who want to gain access to your digital device. It is estimated that nearly 90% of public WiFi is unsecured. Normally at home, your wireless router acts as a firewall to protect your network and computer, but in public hotspots, your device is totally vulnerable to a hacker’s attack.
Open home networks
If you don’t have a password for your wireless Internet router at home, a hacker has the inside track to all of your digital devices. It’s like an open invitation for that hacker to take over your whole world.
This one’s less of a “hack” and more of a spy move: some scammers will use the high-resolution cameras on their own devices to record your passwords and login information when you’re logging on in public. Be safe and be sure that nobody is looking over your shoulders as you sign on to sensitive sites.
Phone to phone
Smartphones are quite sophisticated. You can use them to gain access to just about anything in the world—but the corollary to that is that all other smartphones can have access to you. Hackers who are in close proximity to you while you’re talking or browsing could have an open gateway to your device, depending on how your device’s privacy features are set up.
The not-missing device
What a relief it is to realize you forgot your phone in a public area, only to return to the scene and find it safe… But is it safe? Within a matter of minutes, a hacker could download spyware or put something into the device that gives them unfettered access.
Sure, you may think that the device itself should have been temptation enough, but the problem is that hackers want more than just your device. They want your financial information and account access, which they may be able to access if you leave it unattended.
Some websites are especially attractive, laced with offers and fake search results designed to lure you in. Unfortunately, the case with many of these websites is that when you do, malware and other hacks begin to download to your device, compromising the security of your information.
Public access networks
This has nothing to do with your wireless router or home network, but rather the “public access” networks that you create to allow one device to quickly and easily connect and communicate with your other devices. These open networks may offer hackers a great opportunity to gain access to your devices.
Although it may seem like the smart, frugal decision, if you buy a used digital device, there’s always the possibility that a hacker has installed an add-on or program. This program could give them access to your personal information the moment you sign on to the Internet.
While there may be no way to know for sure, if you do buy used, make sure that you run a scan or have a professional check out the device to ensure that it’s clean and safe.
No matter where you are today, and no matter what kind of device you’re using, you have to proceed with the knowledge that anyone could be attempting to hack your digital device. Smartphones are the most susceptible because they are so common and accessing the Internet can be done from just about anywhere. Be on your guard.
What can you do to protect yourself against digital device hacking?
While this list above may leave you feeling vulnerable, know that there are steps you can take to better protect yourself from the possibility of being hacked:
Know your surroundings
If you’re in a public location, don’t access private information such as bank accounts. Keep your searches limited and be aware of anyone who may be focused on you while working on their own phone (they could be attempting to hack your phone while you’re sitting there).
Know your contacts
If you receive an email from a friend who never sends you odd apps or pictures to download, assume that they didn’t send it—or ask them if they did before opening it.
Use an antivirus program and keep it updated
A good antivirus program protects your devices against viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and other malicious programs. Once your device is infected, these programs could steal your private and sensitive data or take over your computer to launch attacks on other computers. The “bad” guys are creating new viruses and worms every day. So be sure to keep your antivirus program updated.
Use a VPN
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a great way to secure your Internet. Essentially, a VPN conceals your IP address and encrypts all your internet traffic going in and out of your device. This makes it very difficult for hackers to steal your private data and information.
The more that we connect to the Internet using these mobile devices, the more attention hackers will pay to them. It’s important to realize that even though you aren’t using a traditional computer, the same threats exist.
These hacking attempts may still be a novelty, but they can be just as devastating—if not more so—than those traditional computer-generated attacks. Protect yourself, be informed, and use the tools available to keep hackers away from your digital devices.