5 tech mistakes that can leave you vulnerable to hackers

You might think you have a solid cybersecurity plan. You use strong passwords and defensive measures like virtual private networks, or VPNs, and firewalls. But even the strongest shield gets dented from time to time.

It’s hard to remember all the settings you’ve adjusted and the passwords you’ve made over the years. Let this be your reminder to go in and make a few quick changes to protect yourself.

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1. Using the same PIN for your phone lock screen as your bank

You don’t want to remember a bunch of codes. They’re easy to forget, so you keep it simple and reuse the same PIN.

Don’t give in to temptation! It could lead you to financial ruin. Say you’re relaxing in the coffee shop, and you open your phone. Someone standing behind you could notice your code, write it down and start using it to access your bank account within minutes.

To protect yourself, use different PINs. If you’re struggling to remember them all, consider a password manager.

2. You keep Bluetooth on 24/7

Bluetooth is a short-range wireless radio technology that works similarly to Wi-Fi and cellular networks but performs simpler tasks at shorter ranges. You don’t need a cellular signal or network connection to use Bluetooth, and it doesn’t use data.

As with a Wi-Fi network or other connection, Bluetooth has vulnerabilities. Hackers and scammers must be close to you to use Bluetooth to hijack your phone – but in just about any public space, you’re arm’s length from strangers.

There are a couple of ways to disable Bluetooth on your iPhone. Go to Settings > Bluetooth and switch it off. You can also swipe down from the top right of your screen to open the Control Center and tap the Bluetooth icon.

The same steps work for Android phones: Go to Settings > Connected Devices > Connection Preferences > Bluetooth and switch it off. (Note: Steps vary based on your phone’s model. Look or search for Bluetooth if these steps don’t match your phone.)

3. Leaving your Wi-Fi network or router unprotected

Few things make a cybercriminal drool more than an unsecured Wi-Fi connection. If they feel particularly nefarious, they can use your network to attack your gadgets. How about stealing your personal information?

They could even download dangerous files or visit illegal websites through your router.

◾ Step one: Create an original password that’s hard to crack. After that, lock down your Wi-Fi and protect your home.

◾ While at it, ensure your router has a robust, secure and unique password. You’re not alone if you haven’t considered your router a vulnerability.

Here are five essential router security settings you need to check now.

4. You hit unsubscribe on spam

With reputable companies, clicking unsubscribe should do the trick. If you’re receiving newsletters or promotional emails from brands you know, they generally follow email marketing regulations. Go ahead and hit that unsubscribe button.

For unsolicited spam from unknown senders? Clicking unsubscribe may indeed make things worse. You inadvertently confirm that your email address is active … possibly leading to even more spam. If it’s a random email about a long-lost prince or a miracle cure, steer clear of the unsubscribe link. Mark the email as spam in your email client.

5. You click ads and download files from random sites

This is an easy way to hurt your computer. If you see an item you like in an ad, it’s best not to click it. You’re better off heading to your search bar and visiting the brand website itself. There, search for the item in the ad.

Sure, it requires a few extra steps, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. After all, it’s super easy for cybercriminals to create malicious ads. They might even masquerade as authentic companies to get your guard down.

That’s why you shouldn’t click on ads, even if they look safe and legitimate. Instead, find the source yourself.

Keep your tech-know going

My popular podcast is called “Kim Komando Today.” It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like you from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for a recent episode.

Plus, Gary Larock needed a kidney, so his family turned to Facebook. A stranger saw the post and stepped in with a life-changing decision. Apple is opening up to Android messaging, and the Feds want to monitor your car. Also, affordable home mesh Wi-Fi systems.

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Today” 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 all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 5 tech mistakes that can leave you vulnerable to hackers

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