Nearly half (49 percent) of the UK public don't delete accounts on the web that they no longer use.
Comparitech.com warns that each time a user opens an account, such as social media, online shopping or email, it greatly increases the “attack surface” that a cyber-criminal can exploit, especially if the same username and passwords are continually used.
For instance, all the users who forgot about their old MySpace accounts that likely haven't been touched in a decade were part of a huge data breach this year. One may not care what hackers could see from the last 10 years or so, but the dangerous part is that many other user accounts on the web have the same exact credentials.
“Each time you create a new account, your ‘attack surface' – as those in the industry call it – increases. You become an easier target. Combine these details with other personal data that you sprinkled around the website, and you become prime pickings for identity fraud,” said Lee Munson, security researcher for Comparitech.com.
Munson came up with five ways that web users can make themselves safer and more secure online:
1. Delete old user accounts – every time an online account is created and personal information is shared, it is one more possible opportunity for cyber-criminals.
2. Don't use the same password for more than one account – Using the same password for multiple accounts is like having one key that opens your car, your house, your safe and your bicycle lock. If someone gets hold of it, you're in big trouble. A password manager can help.
3. Don't login to online accounts via free WiFi – This often presents an easy target for hackers to steal personal data and account login details. Use your mobile network if you must access an account in public.
4. If two factor authentication is available, use it – If someone hacks your account and tries to login from an unfamiliar location, they will usually be prompted to pass additional security, usually by entering a code sent to your phone.
5. Keep your operating system updated – System updates often patch security holes. Hackers know that not everyone runs the latest updates and will exploit vulnerabilities in old operating systems.