4 Super Easy Ways to Keep Cyber Criminals Out of Your Life

04/28/2015 08:39 pm ET | Updated Jun 28, 2015

2014 was the year of the breach. AOL, eBay, UPS and J.P. Morgan were just a few of the companies that fell victim to cyber criminals. It became a manner of fact for the media to decry the outrage over yet another breach. While these giants were fighting cyber crimes, many of my family, friends, and acquaintances began asking me questions. They wanted to know how they could protect themselves without spending a fortune.

Use these tips to begin protecting yourself from cyber criminals.

1. Awareness.

Would you walk down a dark street in the worst neighborhood at night alone? What about your sons, daughters, friends or loved ones. Do you encourage them to walk unaware down unfamiliar streets? The answer is most likely no because it puts them at risk to fall victim to criminals. Why would we knowingly expose ourselves and our loved ones to harm if we could prevent it.

Today we can no longer protect ourselves (keep the bad people out) by locking our doors at night and avoiding bad neighborhoods. The very devices that we love so much can allow miscreants behind closed doors. Do you have a camera on your computer? Using a well know and relatively easy exploit someone could access that camera and watch you 24 hours a day seven days a week. (Don't believe me. Click this link and read on).

During my training we routinely used a similar exploit to take pictures of our classmates (unbeknownst to them) when we got bored. The technology that has added so much value to our lives is routinely used by criminals to violate our inner sanctum.

2. Pay Attention To Detail.

Do you ever go to Starbucks and use the free Wifi to knock out some homework or pay a bill at the last minute? Did you ever notice you don't need a password to connect. I understand that is what makes it so comfortable and convenient, but now everyone (potentially) has access to your device as well. Yes, that means someone could steal those crazy pics from the party off your computer. Or they could take that document sitting on your desktop. You know the one I am talking about. It has the usernames and passwords to your online accounts.

As of 2012, 61 percent of U.S households had WiFi. When you installed the WiFi router in your home, did you change the default username and password? Did you even turn on the security settings? Simply changing these settings will make it significantly harder for the bad guys to get in.

Regardless of the type of device never use the default security settings!

3. Trust But Always Verify.

At least once a week I get an email from a prince who wants to give me money. The faster I send them all of my personal banking information the faster I can get the money. Perhaps the Prince does not like you but you get an email from your bank. It seems their database blew up, and they need your account number, debit card number, and pin. These examples are a form of social engineering called phishing.

The bad guys send out a whole bunch of emails and hope they can hook one person. According to the 2015 Verizon DBIR, 23 percent of recipients open phishing emails and 11 percent click the links. To make matters worse, 50 percent of recipients open the email and click the phishing links within the first hour.

We use caller identification to screen our calls. Similarly filter your emails and do not open random email from people you don't know. Also, if you get emails from vendors such as FedEx, Amazon, or the United States Postal Service take a quick timeout. Ask yourself if you have sent a package or made a purchase on Amazon recently. If not then delete the email. If you're unsure instead of opening the email and clicking the links call the vendor. (Here are some tips that will help you spot a phishing email.)

4. Remember Social Media Is Not Always Your Friend.

MySpace and Facebook reengineered the way we connect with friends, family and acquaintances. It made it more convenient, but at the same time created a barrier. Now we don't have to give someone our phone number or address to be able to keep in touch. We can connect on Facebook and interact when and if we want to. What about all the people we friend on Facebook that are not our friends but are friends of friends. Great isn't it. It is great because it allows us to interact on our terms and at our leisure.

That barrier does not exist though. By perusing the "routine" information, we supply to Facebook. I could locate you and pay you a visit unexpectedly. Now let's talk about all the pictures you post to Facebook and other social media sites. Digital photographs contain the information called EXIF data. This information could allow me to track your location. (Facebook and Twitter strip this information out of uploaded photos so you don't have to worry).

Don't think this could happen you? That is what the countries leading cyber security strategists thought as well when they befriended Robin Sage. The point is be careful and just don't friend anyone. Just like you would not allow just anyone into your home.

Technology is part of our lives. Now criminals no longer have to break in to steal our valuables, violate our privacy or harm our loved ones. They can and do terrorize us remotely from under the cover of darkness afforded them by the Internet of Things.

Protecting yourself does not have to cost a lot of money or time if you follow these simple steps.