Microsoft confirmed, as of 2016, that more than 400 million devices are running on their Windows 10 software from all over the world. Considering the fact that many PCs exist with earlier versions of the Windows software, we are looking at users in the low billions.
For a platform in as wide a use as Windows OS is, one would think users would know a lot about keeping their data private and safe. Sadly, that is not the case.
You don’t have to take our word for it though. Below are some unknowing common user mistakes which could put you at a high risk of a data breach.
1 Not updating apps
Similar mistakes: Not updating apps as fast as possible; Not checking for app updates at all.
App developers – the good ones, we mean – don’t just push out an app and forget about it. They are constantly working on the apps to make it better for use in many different ways.
This is the reason behind some of the major app updates we get.
However, these app developers are also always on the lookout for any way their creations could be used to exploit users. As soon as they find such loopholes, they will push out an update to fix it.
When the end user (you) fail to download these updates, it becomes possible for hackers to use such a flaw as a backdoor into your system.
Once they get in, there is no telling what they can do. Depending on what the app has access to, an experienced hacker can do so much with that backdoor at their disposal.
Fix: Check for updates regularly. Once they are available, download and install them ASAP.
2 Not updating the system
Similar mistakes: Not updating the system as fast as possible; Not checking for system updates at all.
In this part of the world, many users are guilty of not checking for system updates at all. In fact, some users will even set their systems to only manually check for updates, and they (the users) fail to run such manual checks themselves.
Most often than not, the reasoning behind this is one of conserving data costs.
You should understand that if an app vulnerability could make such app a backdoor into your system, what would a system vulnerability do? Put all of your private files and data in the hands of a hacker, of course.
When the problem is still with an app, such an app could be frozen or uninstalled, and the problem goes away. On the system-side, though, you have no control over what data you lose in the breach.
Fix: Set your computer to automatically check for updates. If you must conserve data, you could set the system to automatically check for updates while allowing for manual downloads. That way, you always have the updates ready to download when you find a suitable network to connect to.
3 Connecting to public Wi-Fi network
Similar mistakes: Not encrypting personal Wi-Fi networks
It is a common saying that ‘nothing goes for free, not even in Freetown.’ Surprisingly, people tend to forget that when they are connecting to a public Wi-Fi network.
One thing you must have noticed about these free/ public Wi-Fi networks is that they don’t come with passwords – which should have given the networks a little bit of encryption. That makes it possible for a myriad of things to happen on the network.
If you ask us, some of the biggest problems you could encounter with public Wi-Fi networks are:
- Man-in-the-middle attacks
- Connecting to a rogue Wi-Fi network. If such a network belongs to a hacker, they become your Internet Service Provider (ISP), giving them access to monitoring all the data being transferred between you and websites/ apps you are accessing.
- Download of malicious codes and software which a hacker could have uploaded onto the unencrypted network
- Data monitoring and collection, even by the companies/ firms/ establishments offering the public Wi-Fi connection.
Fix: The best fix would be not to connect to these free Wi-Fi networks at all. If you must, layer your connection over a Windows VPN so that your internet data is always tunneled and protected at all times.
4 Setting weak passwords
Similar mistakes: Using a single password on multiple accounts; Sharing your passwords
A password does more for your data privacy and security than you know. Even if your Windows PC comes with biometrics, a password is what a hacker would use to get into your device on-site.
This tells you how important strong passwords are.
Unfortunately, poor password habits seem to be on the rise. People are increasingly setting shorter passwords even though those are very easy to hack. In other places, many users are picking passwords that are either common (it is shocking how many people still use ‘123456’), or personally identifying (such as date of birth, name, etc.).
Perhaps the worst of this all are cases when the same password is used for multiple accounts. This makes a hacker’s work even easier since they can get access to a load of your other accounts by just breaching one successfully.
Fix: Do away with all password habits. If you have not already started embracing the strong password culture, now is a good time as any to start.
5 Not running antiviruses
Similar mistakes: Downloading files before scanning them; Opening unscanned drives on your computer; Suppressing antivirus permissions
This has to be one of the most baffling mistakes people make – and it comes in some of the most diverse forms.
For one reason or the other, many users simply don’t have an antivirus on their PCs. This leaves them exposed to all the possible malware they could come across from external drives, email attachments and websites they visit.
For others, they have an antivirus which they choose not to use. This set of people will connect external drives to their computers and not even run a scan before proceeding to open/ read and write on those drives. These people are in the same boat with those who download files (especially email attachments) without scanning them at all.
Perhaps the strangest group are those who disable their antivirus app so they can run another software. Isn’t the fact that the antivirus won’t allow you run such a software in the first place enough red flags for you?
Fix: If you don’t already have one, now is the best time to download an antivirus. There are various antivirus options for the Windows OS out there which will get the job done just right.
Users of Windows 10 will enjoy the improved Windows Defender (comes with the OS) which does a great job of keeping out the malware rubbish. Before opening any external drives, ensure you have them scanned for viruses. The same goes for email attachments.
At the end of the day, protecting your personal data and security is a job for you, and you alone. With the above tips, you can stay ahead of the common openings for breaches. Overall, stay safe!