How to Stay Safe and Secure When Using Social Media

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social media security

Knowing when to use reputable VPN services like Private Internet Access while surfing the net is vital. But, there are times when your identity is exposed such as when you post information to your social media accounts.

These times are a back-to-reality situation as we do “normal” things on the web such as social media, email, and web browsing to do some online shopping.

Most people feel “safe” doing this type of work on the internet and tend to let their security guard down thinking that the bad guys don’t care what you’re posting to your Facebook account and could even care less about the photos of the family at the backyard barbecue.

This all falls into a category of security I like to call common sense security. The only protection you have from doing something that will compromise critical information about you, your family, and your friends is YOU.

There is no magic pill to prevent the inadvertent release of personal information, and there is no software program to prevent it either. It’s between you, the mouse or touch screen, and the keyboard. This is where you can be your own worst enemy unless you think before you act. The scammers and cybercriminals are just waiting to collect all that third-party data you broadcast and use it to their advantage.

Let’s focus on social media and build a checklist of what to do and not do so you can keep your identity protected.

Personal Identifiable Information (PII)

What do you put in your online profiles? PII is information that can be used to put context to just your name and give the reader info to be able to contact you directly and determine your location. Keep it clean and keep it simple. You should be the one to initiate contact, not the other person

Protect your work, hobby, and travel plans

Don’t release the names of other people from your inner circle. Family, friends, and co-workers deserve your respect and protection.

Photos can be a real problem. Other than your professional picture, be particularly sensitive to posting photos of your family. Information in the background can reveal where you live, if you’re on vacation and other risk information that can make you vulnerable. Remind family friends about this too.

Create Strong Passwords

The passwords you use for email and registration on websites should not be the same as the ones you use for social media. In fact, consider using a random password generator software program to develop all your passwords and have a unique one for each instance. There are free programs for this purpose.

Yeah, I know. How to remember those passwords can be a challenge? There are free programs that will store those passwords for you so you don’t have to have a photographic memory. Some anti-virus software has a password vault that comes with the subscription. There are other, independent free programs such as LastPass.

You put all these passwords in a protected vault for a reason. Do not share your password with others or give it away for any reason.

Social Media Security Settings and Privacy

Facebook Privacy Settings
Facebook Privacy Settings

Did you know you have options for the visibility of your posts?

Find the location of those settings (try looking at the drop-down menu under your name) and study them.

Select the best option for your profile and search visibility. You may want to limit who can find you on the site.

Some social media sites give you the option to categorize your contacts and friends. Google + is well known for that. The information shared in each category can be individually tailored to only what’s necessary.

Always research friend requests to see if it is indeed someone you know or want to know and then verify via independent means that they sent you a request.

Keep your computer safe

Keep your anti-virus software subscription current and make sure you’re automatically updating changes to the threat database.

Even in social media, beware of links, downloads, and attachments that are offered to you. Verify who they are from and if they can be trusted.

Scammers use bogus apps, plug-ins, and phishing to get you to do something that leaves you vulnerable. A good rule of thumb is that if the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Skip it and move on.

Always look to see if the site you’re being asked to log on to is an HTTPS site or not before you log on and enter any sensitive data. The HTTPS designation along with a lock icon indicates transmission security and encryption are being used.

Final Thought

Consider everything before you hit the enter key and post anything to social media! This information could go public at any time for any number of reasons.  Hackers can gain access and publish it on the open web. The social media site allows third-party vendors access to posted information, and a configuration error just might release it to the wrong people. If you have any doubts about the sensitivity of the information you’re going to post, don’t post it.