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How to stay safe on social media
October 15, 2020
By Malia Ruchti
When it comes to your online safety, there are many areas to consider, including creating strong passwords, securing your WiFi, and keeping your children safe. While these all seem like obvious areas to focus on, there is one more you should think about: your personal security and privacy on social media.
Social media platforms offer tremendous opportunities for connecting and sharing with family, friends, colleagues or even strangers, near and far. These platforms also offer a wealth of data and personal information, including clues to your passwords, your current location or places you frequent, and other sensitive data that can be accessed by hackers and scammers. According to PurpleSec, an astounding 56% of social media records were breached in 2018 alone.
Let’s take a look at your options for increasing your security and privacy on your social media accounts. These tips fall into two big buckets — things to consider when posting and connecting and settings to manage.
Think before you post
Don’t share personal information
Everything you post online has the potential to reach anyone in the world, regardless of your account settings and who you are trying to share the post with. Consider that your content is stored on company servers that have the potential to be breached and that when you delete a post, it’s not really gone forever. Plus, anything can be re-posted, downloaded or otherwise shared. Once you post, you lose control of the content. So consider if your post contains sensitive information, such as your address, phone number, names of your children, birthdays, or even the names of your pets. This kind of information can be used to impersonate you, access your accounts, and steal your identity.
Don’t be afraid to block content or users
If you see inappropriate content, receive inappropriate messages, or are being bothered by someone on social media, block them and/or their content. You can also report abuse or inappropriate behavior to the company. Blocks and reports alert the platform to watch the user closely and take further action if needed. In a similar vein, be conscious about who you connect with. You may choose to connect with people you don’t really know, and that’s okay, but be aware that this could increase your risk.
Watch your messages
Treat messages on your social media accounts with the same caution you do with your personal email. Don’t open anything from unknown people and be careful of attachments and links. Phishing remains a common security threat, and phishers don’t limit themselves to email. According to a phishing report by Cofense, user action is the best line of defense against phishing.
Secure your settings
The same tips you’ve seen about staying safe online are true for social media accounts. Keep unique and strong passwords for all accounts, turn on 2-step verification, limit the personal information you have connected with your account, keep all programs updated, and lock your device.
Aside from those basics, keep these social media tips in mind:
1. Every social media platform has privacy settings so that you have control over how much information you share and with whom. Take some time to look closely at the options on each account and select settings that are comfortable for you. Some programs offer a “privacy checkup” that will walk you through some basic privacy settings. Facebook and Twitter, as two common examples, offer robust privacy settings menus to allow you to customize who can see your profile information, your posts or tweets, location and more.
2. Consider if you are assigned as an administrator on any business or organizational accounts that you no longer manage. If you are connected to accounts that get hacked, it puts you at risk too, as the hacker then has access to your information too. Be sure to revoke those administrator settings.
3. If you have a public presence, keep a professional profile, or maintain a distinct online persona, you might want to consider if you need separate account for your personal life and your professional/public/online life or profile. Keep in mind that the information you share on all accounts is still always potentially public, but having separate accounts can give you the ability to have different networks and choose different privacy settings.
Stay social, stay safe
Social media can keep us connected. And it can connect you to nefarious characters. As you post, chat, like and follow, just stay aware and cautious.
Also consider this Golden Rule of social media: Post about others as you would have them post about you. This is less about security and more about remembering that we are all people, even online, and what you post has an impact.