Who can live without social media, right? It is now an essential part of our daily lives, with many people spending over two hours daily on social media platforms. Sharing among friends and family is fun, as is staying on top of the latest trends. But the sheer amount of data about our lives and personal spaces we share online now makes social media an attractive target for cybercriminals, too.
Also, for many of us, it is a matter of safety. We don’t want every stranger to have an access to our personal photos and activities. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to stay safe on social media, and to keep your private life private. If you are not sure how to protect your privacy, use ExpressVPN’s advice on how to post with privacy without losing out of the experience.
Is Social Media Really Risky?
Sadly, it is – even if it doesn’t seem like it. We now spend a lot of our lives in digital spaces. More importantly, many services like banking and even healthcare have now gone online for our convenience- but that makes it frighteningly easy to find out much more than you may want people to know about you.
There’ve been several high-profile data breaches in the media over recent years. That alone is a security risk- but it is important to realize the cyber criminals don’t use this information in isolation. The data leaked about us is traded on the black market, where multiple data sources can be linked to give an even more complete picture about who we are and what we do.
Social media feels like it is just friends interacting with friends. But even the most innocuous data- like your anniversary, kids’ names, or pet- can be linked to aspects like your banking security questions to give cybercriminals easy access to what matters most to you.
Because this information is easy to get from social spaces, cybercrime related to social media is rising. Fortunately, you can make yourself a difficult target by using a few easy tricks.
Multi-Factor Authentication and Strong Passwords
The best way to stay safe on social media is to ensure you have excellent password hygiene. This means an 8-16 digit password composed of capitals, small letters, special characters, and numbers. It should be unique to each site (no password recycling) and free of personal identifying information- so no birthdays or kids’ names!
Yes, that can get tough to remember over time. Luckily, today you can use an encrypted password manager, or vault, to help you protect your passwords in a more convinient way.
Make sure you are using multi-factor authentication, too. This sets up a secondary passcode, sent to you on a specific app or through your phone, which you have to enter before you are granted account access. It’s a handy protective tool that is very difficult to replicate by hackers trying to access your information, and will stop a breach in its tracks if one does occur. Needless to say, never share your multi-factor authentication code with anyone!
The more friends and followers you have, the higher the chances you will attract a fake account, bot, or hacker out to do wrong. Try to limit your social circle to those you really know and be sensible about the friend requests you accept. Many cybercriminals will spoof the profiles of loved ones and try to gain access to the next victim this way. So if you suddenly see a friend add their ‘new’ profile to your account, reach out and check it is legit.
If you have a public persona or business profile you’re using on social media, separate the accounts to keep your private data private.
Check Your Settings Often
Most social media platforms allow you to tailor your security and privacy settings- but how often do we check them? Yet they can change with every update the platform has. Make sure you regularly check your security settings, especially after extensive updates, and use them to manage your risk. Turn off aspects like geo-tracking, location information, location data in photos, and other aspects that reveal too much information. It is also wise to limit the devices and apps that can access your data, especially if you no longer use them.
Skip the FOMO
Social media is fun, but it does rather encourage oversharing. Even the simplest details you put into the world can be weaponized against you if you aren’t careful. Tell the world you are on holiday, and the thieves will know it is a good time to strike. Show off a new car, and carjackers will know where to find their next victim. But it can be a lot more insidious than that- that same new car photo, especially with a proud teen standing alongside it, can answer that same teen’s “what was your first car?” security question in a second! Your adorable photo with Mr. Squigglypants tells them the answer to, “what is your pet’s name?”. If you show a lot of interest in LBGTQ+ groups, you’re telling people there’s a strong potential you fit that demographic, and so on.
Less is more when it comes to revealing private information online. Remember, the likes and shares aren’t worth the potential consequences.
Catfishing and Phishing
Many of us are feeling more isolated, especially in a post-pandemic world. And we’re using digital tools to help us make connections. Remember you never really know who the person on the other side of the screen is. Many hackers now use convincing PMs and DMs to coax your info out of you. Never share photos, sensitive data, and addresses with anyone online, even if they seem legit.
Avoid Public Wifi
Public wifi is convenient- but it’s also incredibly easy to infiltrate. Open channels are sharing your data with the world, so if there’s a cybercriminal nearby, you’re practically handing it to them as a gift. If you regularly have to use public wifi, use a VPN from a trusted provider to scramble your data before it leaves your device, ensuring it can’t be intercepted and used.
Staying safe on social media platforms needn’t be difficult or intimidating. Stay mindful and use the safety tools you have to ensure your data is as safe as possible. A little care and attention to detail now can keep you extra safe in cyberspace!
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