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Social Media Security: Reduce Exposure and Protect Personal Information

November 19, 2021
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Social media has changed all our lives, and for the most part, for the better. It allows you to stay connected to people that you don't get to see all the time, you can easily share your photos with your friends and family, it creates a space for groups of like-minded people to gather together and share their thoughts and ideas, and events are marketed to the masses for better visibility. With all of this good though, there's also a lot of bad. In each of these occurrences, personal information is shared with individuals that you have deemed trustworthy and deserving on insight into your life; they are considered your friends after all. But what about the people you don't know and who have insight as well? Friends of friends...strangers who gain access without you even realizing that they can see your child's school photos. Aside from staying off social media altogether, how do you mitigate the risk?

 

Here are a few common social media problems. Being aware of these will help to reduce unintended exposure online and protect your personal information.

 

1. You're the problem. I know, it's hard to believe, but human error accounts for the majority of accidental exposure - and think about it, if it isn't you, it's your connections: friends, family, and coworkers. That being said, don't put anything out there if it isn't something you'd be comfortable with the entire world seeing. That goes further than the statuses and photos your share; it includes all the extra information you provide when you set up your account, like your education, relationship status, and hometown.

 

2. Third Party Apps. Every time you download and add-on app for your main social media accounts, you are allowing access through that app to your information. Sometimes that information includes your photos, your location, your contacts, and even your camera and microphone. Before downloading one of these, ask yourself, "Is this 'repost' software secure?" or, "Is the photo filtering program really worth it?". Don't get us wrong, downloading a little app to fix the glare and red-eye on your photos is extremely helpful, but be aware of what apps you are using and what information you are allowing them to access.

 

3. Phishing Attacks and Scams. Why do we talk about these all the time? Because they're SO common and sometimes SO hard to see unless you're really looking. Phishing attacks and scams will trick you into clicking on a link or providing additional personal information that will be used to gain further access to your computer or allow for fraudulent activity against your name. Some common attack methods in social media include strange, but convincing direct messages, fake contests and prizes, or phony articles. For example, scandalous headlines are posted with an image of a well-known figure, out of curiosity you click on it, and then you're taken to a site that is damaging to your computer or account. One simple way to verify that the article you are seeing isn't an attempt to scam you is to google the wild headlines yourself in a separate search engine.

 

4. Fake Accounts. With all of the information made readily available, fake accounts can be easily created with personally identifiable information to validate them. You may unwittingly accept a friend request and interact with this person, not knowing that they are actually a hacker or that the person on the other end is posing as someone they are not. Even if you are trying to grow your personal account, it's best to not accept friend requests from people you don't know and trust.

 

5. Privacy Settings. Have you checked yours lately? The default settings are generally not the most secure. It is important to do this regularly, especially after a recent update. One thing highly recommended to check if you are looking to keep your information from being used for other things is the Ad Settings. Instagram and Facebook allow you to opt-in or out of using your data from their partners to create ads specifically for you. This can be turned off or on based on your preferences. None of your friends can see your ads unless you interact with them. You can also opt-in or out of using some of your account details (location, education, relationship status, etc.) to create special ads too.

 

6. Unsecured Devices. If you are set to log in using your phone, a public computer, or a work computer automatically without using a password first, you are unfortunately allowing east access to your accounts. You can lessen your risk of exposure if you avoid logging in to your accounts using public or shareable devices and by ensuring that your phone is not set up for automatic access if it is lost.

 

 

Cybercriminal activity is forever changing, becoming more and more sophisticated with every passing day. This means we always have some learning and catching up to do. You need to evaluate your own security regularly if you want to avoid exposure. Being mindful, using unique and strong passwords on your accounts, and watching your social accounts for unusual activity are not the only ways that you can take action, but they are good starting points! 

For more social media tips and information, give us a call today at (513) 347-5800!