How to protect your digital life by thinking like a hacker

The more we rely on our devices, the more vulnerable we are to attacks and fraud. Your smartphone is a prime target. Tap or click here for three ways to protect it from hackers.

It’s not just passwords and sensitive details that you need to protect. Think of all those photos and videos stored on your phone that you would be heartbroken to lose. Tap or click the best ways to save your phone’s photos before it’s too late.

Stopping cybercriminals starts with your mindset. You have to think like the bad guys. Here are five clever ways to do it and tips to help you properly secure your digital life:

1. ‘My job is easy using old equipment.’

Security patches and system updates protect you from the latest hacks and bugs. Hackers know this, of course, which makes older devices attractive targets.

Most of us retire old smartphones before they become dangerous to use, but what about the rest of your smart devices?

That first-gen Amazon Echo you’re sitting around? It’s not safe anymore. Hackers can access it and record your conversations. This is of course just an example.

Tap or click it to see a list of smart IoT devices that you no longer need to use.

bottom line: Once your connected gadgets stop getting updates, it’s time to say goodbye. This advice applies to security cameras, hard drives, smart plugs, routers, and even your browser.

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Go one step further: How to protect your security system from hackers.

2. “I’m way better than the hackers you see in movies.”

Whenever a hacker wants to break into a system in a movie, the person types in a series of characters and they’re in. It really can be that simple. I tell you all the time that password reuse is dangerous. Here’s why. Suppose you use the same password for multiple websites and then one website gets hacked.

Your credentials will be offered for sale on the dark web. Anyone who gets their hands on your login credentials will try the same username and password combination on other websites.

So your confidential information, private documents and personal conversations are in the hands of a hacker. They use your account to send spam, scams, or phishing attempts aimed at your contacts.

bottom line: You’ve created dozens of accounts for websites and services that you haven’t used over the years. You might think that keeping them around is no big deal, and that’s exactly what hackers are betting on. Tap or click here for a website with easy steps to delete your old accounts.

Go one step further: 10 new rules for creating the best strong passwords.

3. “I hang out where there’s free Wi-Fi.”

“Great,” you think, “this coffee shop has free WiFi.” Crooks use public WiFi to spy on you and other unsuspecting users who join the network. These “honeypot” networks are designed to steal your information.

Do you check your bank account in the shop or in the airport free wifi? A criminal can use your credentials to get away and browse your account. Keep your banking with the app on your phone and use your phone’s data connection on the go.

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bottom line: If you must use a public connection, turn on a virtual private network (VPN) to protect yourself. Tap or click here to find free WiFi anywhere while staying safe.

Go one step further: Change these router settings to keep hackers out of your home network.

4. “Your family and friends are my best friends.”

It’s a sad truth, but your family could make you vulnerable to hackers. Suppose your kids have your Netflix password and one shares it with a friend. The friend shares it with someone else. Before you know it, your go-to streaming password is floating around.

When it comes to young people or the less tech-savvy people in your life, they may not be as good at spotting warning signs as you are. An incorrect click can result in scams, malware, or worse.

Cybersecurity should be a familiar matter. Share this article with the people in your life and you will all feel safer.

bottom line: Creating separate logins is much more secure than sharing passwords. Tap or click here for a list of services you can share with friends and family to save some money.

Go one step further: Cybersecurity Check: See if someone is poking around in your Gmail, Facebook or Netflix account.

5. ‘I look for posts that show expensive purchases or vacations.’

Sharing doesn’t matter when it comes to cybersecurity. Posts that appear harmless can lead a cybercriminal to see money tokens.

Be sure to share your thoughts and memes online. But does anyone need to know about your expensive new watch or your happy vacation? No they don’t. Share these things in private messages with people you trust.

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bottom line: Do not include personal information in public profiles. Nobody needs to see your phone number, email address or place of work. Tap or click for more common social media mistakes people make.

Go one step further: 10 Facebook privacy and security settings you need to change right now

Keep your technical knowledge up to date

My favorite podcast is called Kim Komando Today. It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips and tech callers like you from across the country. Look for it wherever you get your podcasts. For convenience, click the link below to view a recent episode.

PODCAST CHOICE: Outlook ads, bad internet trick, Elon Musk Mars warning

Do you live in an area with crappy internet? Try this trick. Also, the new version of MS Flight Simulator is amazing, Outlook users will not like a big change, the biggest problem with private mode and my smart digital life advice for callers like you.

Watch my Kim Komando Today podcast on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name “Komando”.

Learn about the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and shares advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. Visit her website at for her daily tips, free newsletters and more.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Protect yourself from hackers by thinking like one. Here’s how.

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