Protecting Your Security on Social Media and Social Networks

One of the most vulnerable nodes in the average user’s technological presence is on social media. With hundreds of millions of users on many different popular social media and networking platforms, these platforms prove fertile ground for spammers, scammers and cyber-criminals. Don’t be a target, use these tips to protect yourself when interacting on social media and social networks:

1.) Use strong passwords

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 11.11.06 AM.pngI have dedicated many posts on the importance of strong passwords, so this is going to be just a brief summary. Use passwords that are 16 characters long, that include a soup of character types (numeric, lower case, upper case and special characters), and that you will remember. If your password is long enough (at least 16 characters), it’s not imperative that you change it regularly as long as you remember what it is and don’t rely on bypasses meant to aide users with forgotten passwords.

2.) Use two factor identification

I have also detailed this in a previous post, but two factor identification provides an extra layer of security from bad actors and significantly reduces your chances of becoming a victim.

3.) Protect your smart phone

Many of us social media apps on our phones. I have Linkedin, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, WhatsApp, KakaoTalk and Skype apps active on my smart phone. Each of these are just a screen-tap away from full access. Consequently, if a bad actor got a hold of my iPhone, my presence on each of these platforms is at a severe security risk. Consequently, I have a passcode requirement and biometric authentication requirement before I can access my phone (two-factor identification). If you have a smart phone, especially if you have several accounts or apps linked to your phone, ensure that it has the appropriate security measures in place. Remember, no matter what you think, you could always be a target.

4.) Click links at your own peril

If you receive a link in an email, in a social media post, or online in general, and you aren’t 100% sure of the source of that link, don’t click it. Hackers use links in phishing scams which rely on people to click links in their email or social media posts in order to enable access to their accounts and devices. Many of the biggest and most noteworthy data breaches of late are the results of unsuspecting users clicking links and enabling a phishing scam attack (think eBay, Target, and Hilary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential Campaign).

5.) Be careful what information you publish on your profile

Often times you can be a hacker’s best friend. Don’t post your address, financial information, social security number (or some other national identification number depending on your nationality and residency) or personal phone number less you provide the information a hacker would need in order to bypass your security and access your information.

6.) Ensure you have up-to-date antivirus installed

This is another point towards which I have dedicated previous posts. Long story short: make sure you have antivirus installed on your machine, and make sure you keep it up to date. If you are short on cash and need suggestions on which antivirus program is right for you, I’ve got you covered.

7.) Be familiar with privacy policies

Most legitimate social media and social networking sites will publish their privacy policy, and some even allow you to customize the privacy settings. Use these settings to ensure that only the people you want to see your presence can see your presence (by presence, I mean profile, information, posts, etc.). A simple rule of thumb I use on if I want to allow someone to see my presence that you could apply: When in doubt, don’t.

8.) Do not befriend those you don’t know

Going hand-in-hand with privacy policies, you shouldn’t befriend or accept friend requests from people you don’t know or don’t want to see your social presence. Six years ago, there were over 83 million fake user accounts on Facebook, meaning there’s probably a lot more than that now. If one of these accounts sends you a friend request, and you accept it, then, depending on your privacy policies, they most likely can glean a lot more information about you than they could otherwise. If you don’t know the user who is befriending you or if the friend request comes from an account that seems suspect, don’t accept the friend request.

9.) Be careful with what you advertise and how you curate your image

You always want to be very cautious about what information you advertise in your posts. Posting vacation photos advertises to thieves that nobody is home. Posting your location is an advertisement to stalkers who want to keep tabs on you. Posting photos of an alcohol or drug infused party can advertise to employers that you are not the type of character they want representing their organization. Moral of the story here is that everything that you post is a potential advertisement about some fact. You need to always be careful about what you want to advertise. As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, each post is a brush stroke in your image, and you want to carefully curate your image in order to protect yourself and your possessions, as well as the character you portray of yourself in your professional and social life.

10.) Log off your accounts when you are done

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 11.16.55 AM.pngEach time you log into an account, a cookie is created that stores information like login credentials in order to ease the sharing of information and increase performance of your logged in usage. Each cookie has a unique identifying code, and if they are stolen by a bad actor, that hacker can use that identifier to access your account, and consequently have access to all your information stored on that account. The moment you log off of the account, the unique identifying code of the cookie becomes invalidated. Consequently, you should always log off your accounts when you are not using them. The longer you are logged in, the larger the window a hacker has to steal and use your cookie, and the more vulnerable you become.

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