We all probably have some form of social media today – whether it be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram – you name it. A large percentage of individuals have accounts with all these social media avenues, while others have chosen to stay off any form of social media altogether. Now while this could save you a lot of headaches, we must still outline the risks and how you can keep yourself secure if you are one of those social media all-stars.
A huge factor in why we utilize social media in the first place is to connect with others, stay in communication with friends or family that may live far away and because it’s free. However, with anything being free, there are usually some drawbacks. Especially right now as we navigate through the uncharted territory of a pandemic-ridden world, we’re beginning to see more and more threats from cybercriminals who are leveraging on the global pandemic of COVID-19. And it doesn’t just stop at large threats to big corporations and phishing emails. They are finding ways to be of disservice to everyone possible – even you, the innocent Facebook user just there for some fun, games, and picture-sharing.
There have been many “games” or “challenges” circulating said social media platforms asking users to participate in sharing personal information about your first car (make, model, and year no less), your favorite pet’s name, maiden name or where you went to high school! Seems fun and harmless, right? Wrong. These are ALL major hints in guessing passwords to maybe not just your social media accounts, but your credit card account or bank account. Think twice before you begin blasting all your personal information to the masses. These are sadly not just for fun – there were specially produced by cybercriminals.
If you’re wondering how you can proactively stay safe on social media during this time and anytime, here are some guidelines to help you tighten security on your accounts:
- Know your friend list – a lot of cybercriminals begin by placing themselves onto your list of friends by either sheer luck of you accepting them OR by posing as someone you might know – be cautious of who you’re willing to accept and delete anyone that you have any suspicions about.
- Add-ons and third-party vendors – ultimately, when you’re allowing access via add-ons through games from third-party vendors (ex: if you ever see quizzes asking you “What type of ice cream are you? Bad example, but you catch our drift) you always need to make sure that you know what you’re agreeing to. This third-party vendor may not always uphold the same terms and conditions as the social media account you’re using and could be obtaining more information from you and your friends than you’re willing to provide.
- Customized privacy settings – they’re there for a reason, folks – use them! Be sure to set your profile settings to private or non-public. You don’t want everyone…and we mean everyone…to see your information. Most social media accounts have many options to keep your information secure and to only be seen by certain family and friends.
- While you’re away – vacations, weekend trips, a day-long adventure…do not post about it until AFTER you’ve returned home. This seems pretty self-explanatory, but this gives anyone an open door into your home knowing that you won’t be there and they know this because YOU told them.
- New passwords – it’s always wise to refresh your passwords to any account every couple of weeks or sometimes days. But another big no-no is to never use old passwords or recycle them. Try to come up with new and unique ones each time and beat them at their own game! Also, make sure you’re not using the same one for all accounts – they hack one account and they’ll hack them all.
- Think before you click – be sure to take special precautions when clicking on any links or attachments and before downloading anything that has been sent to you via social media. Again, know your source because many hackers are known to pose as someone you know to trick you into clicking. Or your friend or family may have had their account hacked as well.
- Turn off geotagging – if you don’t want others to know your location, turn this off immediately. Geotagging or auto-geotagging is when your GPS automatically tracks your whereabouts and uploads whenever you post anything allowing hackers to track your every move.
- Think before you post – it’s best to not post anything on social media that your mother wouldn’t be proud of – even if you think it’s to a private account. These regretful posts are often saved to a server somewhere forever and can potentially come back to haunt you if you’re ever the victim of a breach.
If you’re still feeling uncertain about your privacy settings and how you can better protect yourself, you can always visit the social media platform’s privacy page to learn more about their options and tips customized to their site. But keep in mind, even if you've never hacked via social media, whether during our pandemic or not, you’re still signing up for potential compromise. By accepting the platform’s terms and conditions, you’re giving all the rights of your personal information to that company to do what they’d like with it. Your personal information is worth a lot of money to cybercriminals – be mindful of how and what you’re posting and once more, do NOT fall victim to the silly “tell-all” games.