5 Security Mistakes That Could Put You in Harm's Way

Photo: Adam Mitchinson / Getty

We all make mistakes when it comes to our online security. Some security mistakes can be simple ones that might not get you in big trouble but some mistakes may actually be dangerous to your personal safety. Let’s take a look at several security mistakes that might put you in harm’s way:

1. Giving Out Your Location (Intentionally or Unintentionally)

Your location is a very important tidbit of data, especially when it comes to your safety.

Not only does your location tell people where you are, it also tells them where you aren’t. This could become a factor when you post your location on social media, whether in a status post, location “check-in”, or via a geotagged picture.

Say you post that you are “home alone and bored”. Depending on your privacy settings (and those of your friends), you have just told potential strangers, stalkers, etc, that you are now a vulnerable target. That may just be the green light they were looking for. Telling them that you’re not at home can be just as bad because then they know that your house is empty and that this might be an opportune time to come and rob you.

Consider avoiding giving out location information via status updates, photos, check-ins, etc, it can do more harm than good. The one exception to this rule might be the Send Last Location Information feature of your cell phone that might be used by loved ones to help locate you in the event you are lost or kidnapped.

2. Giving Out Your Personal Information

Whether you fell for a phishing attack or provided your social security number to a legitimate website, anytime you provide personal information online, you run the risk that that information may be going to an identity thief, either directly or via the black market if it ends up stolen in a data breach.

It’s impossible to say who’s systems are going to get hacked and if your information will be part of a data breach. 

3. Allowing The Public to View Your Social Media Content

When you post something on social media sites such as Facebook and set its privacy to “public” you are opening it up for the world to see. You might as well be writing it on the proverbial bathroom wall, except this bathroom is pretty much every single bathroom in the world (at least the ones with Internet access).

Check out our Facebook Privacy Makeover article to learn what you need to do to make your privacy settings safer.

4. Posting Status Updates or Pictures to Social Media While on Vacation

Sure you want to brag about what a good time you're having while away on your vacation, but you really should consider waiting until you return from your trip before you start posting all about it. Why? The main reason is that you are obviously not at home if you're posting vacation selfies from the Bahamas.

You may think that you’re just sharing this information with friends, but what about your friend’s delinquent brother who might be looking over their shoulder while they’re using their phone. He and his delinquent friends might just use this information and go rob your house while you’re away on your trip.

Here are more reasons you Shouldn’t Post Pictures While on Vacation.

5. Putting Too Much info in an Out-of-Office Message

You may not have thought about it before but your out-of-office auto-reply message can reveal a lot of personal information. This information could be potentially sent to anyone who happens upon your email address and sends you a message when your auto-reply is active, such as when you are on vacation.

Combine this information with your status updates and selfies while on vacation and you have most likely confirmed your out-of-town status as well as possibly providing your travel itinerary (depending on how detailed your out-of-office message is).

Read our article: The Dangers of Out-of-Office Auto-replies for some tips on what you should and shouldn’t put in your auto-replies.