Online security should be among everyone’s top priorities. Even seemingly minor slip-ups can have impactful consequences, and certain online habits you’ve come to regard as commonplace may be actively undermining your overall safety. Fortunately, correcting these behaviors is fairly easy. However, this involves becoming mindful of what they are and how they stand to compromise your online security. Anyone looking to strengthen their digital defenses would do well to break the following habits.

Visiting Unsafe Websites 

Visiting unsafe websites is among the most common causes of virus and malware infection. Unfortunately, since many of us seldom think twice before visiting unfamiliar sites, cybercriminals won’t hesitate to exploit this habit. Luckily, there are a number of easy steps you can take to ensure that the only sites you visit are safe ones. 

For starters, before clicking a link, hover your cursor over the link to see where it’s taking you. If the URL is different from where the link is purporting to take you, avoid clicking on it. You should also make sure that any site you visit has Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certification. To do this, simply confirm that the URL begins with “HTTPS” instead of “HTTP.” If you’re unfamiliar, an SSL certificate essentially secures the data that is passed from your browser to the site’s server.    

You should also abstain from visiting sites that prompt warnings from your browser, operating system or dedicated antivirus software. No matter how eager you are to visit a certain site, such red flags are ignored at your peril. 

Refusing to Use Dedicated Antivirus Software 

Refusing to install dedicated antivirus software on your internet-capable devices is practically asking for trouble. While it’s true that many operating systems are equipped with virus-fighting properties, this doesn’t mean that dedicated antivirus programs can’t aid in your security efforts – quite the opposite, in fact. Instead of viewing your operating system’s antivirus properties as a substitute for dedicated software, you should regard them as a complement to specialized antivirus software. 

So, if your computer, phone and other internet-capable devices are currently operating without dedicated antivirus software, now would be a good time to change that. The right software can effectively stop scores of viruses and other cyberthreats in their tracks, thus providing you with lasting security and peace of mind.   

Not Using a VPN 

No one who values their privacy in the digital age should be without a good virtual private network (VPN). If you’re tired of having your traffic and online activity tracked by a growing assortment of third parties, there’s no time like the present to start exploring your VPN options. Although virtual private networks are nothing new, the past few years have seen them become more popular among people who never considered themselves particularly tech-savvy.

For those who are unfamiliar – a VPN serves to conceal your IP address and create a data tunnel by redirecting network traffic through a remote server. By encrypting your data and network traffic and masking your network identity, a virtual private network makes it virtually impossible for other people to intercept your data or track your online activity.

Additionally, because of their newfound popularity, VPNs can be found in abundance across the World Wide Web. So, if you’re currently in the market for one, you’re likely to find an enormous number of options. While using a free VPN may be tempting, buying a pro VPN is liable to provide you with a higher level of protection. Fortunately, no matter how tight your budget is, a paid VPN shouldn’t set you back much. For a small annual (or monthly) fee, you can enjoy tremendous peace of mind and a considerable amount of online privacy.  

It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that many people are set in their ways. From cooking to grooming to working, most of us have our own unique way of going about our daily tasks. However, developing unsafe online habits and showing no desire to change them can facilitate hard-hitting consequences. Regardless of how resistant you typically are to change, online behaviors are one area in which stubbornness will never serve you well. So, if you exhibit any of the habits discussed above, take care to make the necessary changes.