Social Media And Cyber Security

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Using social media can be a lot of fun, and it’s something that most of us do several hundred times per day. Whether it’s seeing the latest pictures of Kylie Jenner on Instagram, taking photos of your meals on Snapchat, or heading to Twitter for some world news (and dank memes), social media has become a ubiquitous part of our lives. But one thing that you may not be considering when you log on to Facebook is your cybersecurity. Without knowing it, we often reveal a lot of information about ourselves through our social media, from our jobs to our address to even our phone numbers. This information can be used to steal your financial information or even your identity, if you’re not careful.

No fear! In this article, I provide you with some actionable and simple ways that you can stay safe while using social media. Let’s get started!

Use A Password Manager

Master Password
Master Password

Think about all of the different social media platforms you use. Off the top of my head, there’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tiktok…the list goes on. Now think about your passwords for each account. If you’re like most people, than you’re probably using either the exact same password or a variation of the same password for multiple accounts. That’s understandable, as memorizing a unique, long and complicated password for each account just doesn’t seem feasible. That’s where password managers come in.

Password managers remember all of your passwords for you, storing them in an encrypted vault. You’ll only have to remember one master password, which you can use to log on to all of your social media accounts. You can even set up two-factor authentication, which sends a passcode to your mobile device, or multi-factor authentication, which requires biometrics like fingerprint or facial recognition, for added security. If you retain one thing from this article, it’s to use a password manager to make sure each account has it’s own password.

For more information, check out my list of the best password managers of 2019.

Don’t Accept Random Friend Requests or Follows

We all want to have as many followers as your favorite influencers, but unfortunately, accepting everyone who follows you can be a bit dangerous, especially if you’re revealing personal information on your accounts. Instead, be choosy with who your friends or followers are, because there are some people out there with less than positive intentions. You know what they say— better safe than sorry!

Click Links With Caution

Phishing

It’s easy to scroll through your phone and click on links, but you should really be careful to avoid phishing. Let’s say you get a strange Facebook message with a link to check out a third party site. That’s something you don’t want to click on, as these links often ask for your personal information which can be sold on the dark web. If you’re not sure if a link is legit or not, make sure it starts in HTTPS, although this won’t be true for all legitimate links. You can also test your links for malware using Google Safe Browsing, although this won’t work for iOS. Instead, if you’re browsing social media on your phone, use this website to see if your link is safe before clicking.

 

Don’t Reveal Personal Information

This may seem fairly obvious, but in the era of oversharing, it can feel completely normal to divulge all details of your life on social media. However, you want to avoid a few key pieces of info, such as your:

  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • Financial information
  • Job information
  • Sensitive photos

and more. Remember that once you post something on social media, people will always be able to find it, even if you delete the original post. Basically, use common sense to make sure you’re not playing right into hackers’ hands.

Read Privacy Policies

I know, privacy policies are super long and usually written in language that’s not easy to understand. But before you sign up for any social media account, be sure to read through the privacy policy and make sure that you’re okay with the way the company uses your data. Many companies like Facebook sell your data to advertisers, which you may or may not be cool with. Remember, if a service is free, then you’re the product.

Customize Privacy Settings

VPN Privacy

After you’ve thoroughly read the platform’s privacy policy, be sure to customize your privacy settings to control who can and can’t see your content. This is not only important to keep information away from hackers, but your employer may also be a factor. Of course, you shouldn’t be posting such risky things on social media in the first place, but if you are a bit looser on social media than you are in the office, using the highest privacy settings available is a must.

Update Software on Device

Again, software updates may be a little annoying (and do prevent you from using your device for upwards of a few minutes— the horror!), but many of them include security updates, so it’s important to do them as soon as they’re available. Companies are always racing against hackers, trying to outsmart them with state of the art encryption, authentication, and protocols to keep your information safe, so take advantage!

Log Off When Done

It’s really easy to leave yourself logged in on dozens of apps on your phone, especially because we use them so often. But if you lose your phone, or any mobile device, and you’re still logged into social media accounts, then you’re making it very easy for hackers to access your accounts and steal your personal information. Even though it may seem like a hassle, be sure to log out of social media accounts when you’re done using them. Combined with two and multi-factor authentication, this will protect your accounts if you do lose your devices.

Lock Phone

iPhone Auto Lock
iPhone Auto Lock

For even more protection, make sure that your phone locks automatically after a certain period of time— I recommend 30 seconds. On top of that, make a passcode that’s as long as possible and not based on anything obvious, like your phone number, repeated numbers, your address or birthday. You want to make it as difficult as possible for people who aren’t you to access your phone so that you can keep your social media in your control, so auto-lock and a complicated passcode are essentials.

Use A VPN

How VPNs Work

If you’re using social media on a public Wi-Fi network, then you’ll benefit from using a VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Network. VPNs encrypt your web traffic in a tunnel, replacing your IP address so that hackers won’t be able to access any of your information. Ranging from free to only a few dollars a month, VPNs make using public Wi-Fi networks as secure as possible, which is essential when dealing with sensitive information.

Not sure which VPN to use? Read my top picks for the best VPNs in 2019.

Recap

There are many ways to stay safe on social media, and most of them take no more than a few minutes. Of course, these suggestions apply to more than just social media— they’re great ways to stay safe when you’re using the Internet in any form. However, with social media, we tend to forget just how much personal information we’re revealing to our networks, making this article more relevant than ever.

Gabe Turner

Gabe Turner

Gabe Turner is an attorney and journalist with a passion for home tech and secure, efficient living. Since graduating from NYU Law, he has maintained a paradoxical existence of trying to live life adventurously while remaining staunchly risk-averse. He is torn by the dual desires of wanting to only be in Brooklyn writing about housing policy and smart home tech and aspiring to visit his friends scattered across the globe. Gabe believes that stable, safe communities are the cornerstone to a vibrant and healthy society, and it is this passion that brought him to contribute to Security Baron.

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