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7 things you should never do online

USA TODAY USA TODAY 6/11/2016 Kim Komando

We all have bad habits, like biting our nails or drinking straight from the milk carton. While it’s bad form, it won’t steal your life savings. It won’t target your children.

As a digital expert, I cringe when people confess their hazardous activities and unacceptable etiquette. It’s time to quit the bad behavior. Here are seven things you should never do online.

1. Be gullible to posts and videos

It doesn’t take much effort to create a convincing hoax. With the right phrasing and a dab of digital wizardry, you can convince millions of people that Brad Pitt committed suicide, or drilling a hole in your iPhone 7 will reveal a hidden headphone jack. (It won’t by the way, but here’s the video that has over 15 million views and fooled some into destroying an iPhone.)

A recent hoax alleges that Facebook's privacy policy has changed and all your pictures, posts, and messages will now become public. People are upset and posting false status updates that they do not give Facebook permission to share their private content. This particular post, like many others, cites a news source along with mumbo jumbo legal statutes.

True, it’s hard to tell a hoax is a hoax, but if you hear something shocking, run a quick internet search before you believe it. You may save yourself a lot of embarrassment, and you’ll leave the pranksters less reason to fool people.

Click ahead for six more thing you should never do online.

2. Skip setting up two-factor authentication

  © Georgijevic/Getty Images    Don't let the fancy name “two-factor authentication” throw you. It just means that to login to your account, you need two ways to prove you are who you say you are. It's like the bank or DMV asking for two forms of ID.

Most major services and companies, such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, offer two-factor authentication. It’s essential to set up.

This way, no one can access your account if your password is compromised. Some sites ask for your cell number, so they can text supplemental access codes if a password reset is enacted. You can also get alerts every time your account is accessed from an unfamiliar browser or device.

I have the steps necessary to set up 2FA on my site. It takes just a few minutes so do it now while you’re thinking about it.

3. Use the same password for multiple sites

      Passwords used to be so easy. Your pet bunny was named “Pinky,” so that became your password. Nowadays, passwords look more like JaYW1x%BuUnZ#. Even if you could remember this gobbledygook, do you really want to dream up more than one password that looks like this? Security is vital these days, and complex passwords are the way to go. But there is a simple way to remember good passwords that are also unique to each site.

Click here to learn why“ilovefreshsashimitunawithalittlesoyandwasabi” is a great password. Trust me: Passwords are only annoying until someone commandeers your account. Using the same password is a mistake you only have to make once.

4. Sync your social media accounts

  © shall|File|Filed|8/25/2016 11:00:42 AM/ASSOCIATED PRESS/AP Images    It’s difficult keeping up with all your social media accounts. Services like Buffer, Hootsuite, and SproutSocial help you manage your social presence across several platforms from one dashboard. Unfortunately, some people make the mistake of scheduling the same message across all their profiles. Remember, tweets and Facebook posts are very different things, as are Instagram and Google+.

Social media is an art. It’s a little more time-consuming to tailor your announcements to each type of social media, but it’s like the old carpenter’s motto: measure twice, cut once.

5. Share too much information about your kids

Internet security:   © Getty Images    Sharing a few cute photos is fine, but posting too much private information can be very dangerous. I even warn the parents in my family: Suppose your 8-year-old daughter is at soccer practice, and a stranger approaches and says, “Hi, Susie. I work with your father John at the dentist’s office. He just had an accident in his blue 2014 Honda Accord and your Dad asked me to drive you to him at St. Vincent’s Hospital.”

Today, it’s easier than ever for predators to find your child’s name, plus your own professional and personal data. Aggressive predators might even track down schedules for sporting events and after-school clubs. Don’t give them a chance to sound credible.

6. Use public Wi-Fi without giving it much thought

  © Ron Antonelli/Bloomberg    Most people feel very comfortable walking into a hip urban café and logging onto the local WiFi. But is it really the local WiFi? Lots of people log on to systems named “CoffeeShop” or “ILoveFood” and have no idea that these belong to data-hungry hackers.

Hackers set up their own fake public Wi-Fi with a misleading name. Upon logging in, the victim’s keystrokes are recorded and stolen to obtain personal information. Hackers will also send malware disguised as updates to a victim's computer. Once the malware is installed, the hackers gain full control of the computer without the victim's knowledge.

In this video from Australia's ABC, cybersecurity consultant Kevin Mitnick demonstrates how it's done.

That’s why you want to use a virtual private network or VPN. A VPN service lets you create an encrypted connection with one of its servers, and you use that server to use the internet. The connection is encrypted through the server, so the VPN can't see your traffic either. It's a bit more complicated, but that's the result.Click here to learn more about VPNs and get links to free programs on my site.

7. Get into arguments on social media

  © Reuters    We have all stumbled into a meme that makes us angry. Or someone sends us a forwarded message that sounds totally misinformed. Or some troll posts a series of vicious comments. My advice: Do not engage.

There’s nothing tackier than a social media argument. Even well-intentioned comments can sound snarky and mean-spirited. Friendships often fall apart after sparring on Facebook or Twitter. If you need to sort out your differences, it’s best to do this in person or over the phone. Social media is a high wire act, and most arguments end badly.

Bonus: Be an internet-trained MD

Medical diagnosis sites can be very handy for basic info, but for most physicians, it is the bane of their existence. Patients storm into waiting rooms, claiming to have Dengue fever and Zika virus.

Hypochondria and the internet are a very bad mix. Believe me; online medical advice isn’t the second opinion you’re seeking.

Looking for other ways to behave better online? Be sure to listen or download my podcasts, or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.


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