Online security

How to stay safe and secure on social media

Freelance tech writer, LinkedIn profile

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A tech writer specialising in cybersecurity, working with Redscan on this and a number of other GDPR, MDR, and ethical hacking projects.
October 2, 2019

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After Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, where the social media behemoth was fined $5bn for violating user privacy, you’d have thought many people would be scared off social media.

However, that’s not been the case at all. In fact, Facebook’s number of users have actually grown in the wake of the scandal, showing just how social media-obsessed we are as a society.

Facebook isn’t the only culprit either. Twitter, Instagram and numerous other social platforms have suffered from privacy issues in the past as well, albeit to a much lesser extent.

With social media use on the rise though, maybe it’s time we embraced the movement instead of fought against it. After all, keeping your online persona safe is imperative not just for you personally, but for your friends and family as well.

Saying that, staying safe online is much easier said than done, so here are five useful tips to follow when using social media.

  1. Don’t be too personal

It may be tempting while building your profile to include every single bit of personal information possible, but don’t – you’ll only be making life easier for hackers. Whether it’s your date of birth, education, personal interests, pet name – whatever, this information is often required for security questions, so don’t willingly hand your answers over to everyone.

Make sure to keep as much of your profile as private as you can, and think twice before posting absolutely every thing you do. Also, never post photos of your credit cards, passport or travel information – you will only be advertising the fact that you’re not at home.

  1. Update your privacy policies

Most social media websites now allow you to change your privacy policies on a person-by-person basis, giving you full control over who can see what information. Take advantage of this, by making sure your profile is set on ‘private’ to limit who can see your data without being your friend/follower.

Then, determine which groups of friends and followers you want to see certain bits of information. For example, you may give your family members access to your phone number and email, but you might not want other people you don’t know so well to see this information.

  1. Only add people you know

A pretty obvious point really, but a very important one. If someone sends you a friend request and you don’t know who they are, do not accept it. There are thousands of social media profiles out there acting as impersonators or hackers looking to extract your personal information. By accepting their friend or follow request, you are willingly giving them access to it and allowing them into your life.

Only add friends, family members or people that you actually know or have met before. While it may be tempting to add hundreds of people to increase your like, view or retweet count, you will only be putting yourself at risk in doing so.

  1. Use strong and unique passwords

While it can be annoying having to constantly update your password, it’s vital to do as it keeps your online persona safe and behind closed doors. In order to do this effectively though, you need to make sure that your password is strong (i.e. using numbers and symbols) and, ideally, different for each social media site you use. Having a one-for-all password may be easier to remember, but once a hacker works it out, they’ll have access to all your social profiles. Make life difficult for them by mixing up your passwords and updating them every few months or so.

  1. Lock your phone

Scammers aren’t always based online – they can be a physical threat too. Thieves and robbers can access your information by stealing your phone or other devices, so make sure you protect them as best you can just in case. Keep them locked and password protected when you’re not using them, and make sure to remain cautious when you are.

Plus, if you realise your phone is missing, use iCloud or another relevant software to prevent your data being seen my attackers. They may still have your phone handset, but at least they won’t have access to the information that’s on it as well.

Final thoughts…

There’s already enough to worry about with social media websites – from disabling Autoplay settings to save data, to deciding which photos to post online.

However, protecting your personal information online is by far the most important. Follow these five steps and you’ll be well on your way to staying safe online. Just remember – always be sensible about what you post and who you post it to.

Oh, and definitely don’t use passwords like ‘Password123’, ‘111111’ or ‘qwerty’ – they are just asking for trouble.

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