Monday, December 21, 2015

More common even than email accounts, social media has taken the world by storm as one of the most preferred methods of communication and marketing. Businesses and individuals alike have taken advantage of the tool, using it to share information and photos, and even create advertising campaigns.

The real trouble is, very few people recognize the substantial security threats that are inherently present even in the most basic use of social media. These accounts are linked to virtually everything we do, and your information in the wrong person’s hands can be a powerful weapon.

Here are a few tips to keep you safe online, and make sure that you and your family are using social media responsibly.

#1: Use a Secure Password

First, let’s start with the basics. Password security is one of the biggest weaknesses of any online account, and using the same passwords for multiple accounts is just asking for trouble. Pick unique passwords, and never share them with anyone.

One thing of particular concern with social media accounts is that so much of your personal life is on display, many hackers actually guess your passwords by gleaning information through your profile. As a precaution, always keep your profile information private, and be very cautious about revealing personal details to people you don’t know.

If you’re concerned that you won’t be able to remember your passwords, you can always use a secure password management service such as LastPass. These programs actually remember all of your login information for you, using a secure key to access the master account.

#2: Manage Your Privacy Settings

Next, look at your social media account’s privacy settings. Make sure that you have as little information on display as possible, and that photo settings are managed accordingly. Also, keep in mind that on Facebook, profile and cover photos are always public, even once they’ve been changed. The only way to make them private again is to delete them from those albums.

#3: Never Add Anyone You Don’t Know

While many personal relationships can definitely be forged online without ever actually meeting someone face to face, I would be very cautious about adding anyone you don’t at least somewhat know in real life or through a real connection.

Many times spam accounts are created for the sole purpose of distributing materials or infiltrating other accounts. Plus, once on your friends list, all of your personal information and photos become visible to someone you may not even know.

#4: Never Share Real Time Location Information

Another big mistake users make with social media is sharing real time location information on their profile. When you update your status with your vacation thoughts and photos, it sends a big message to everyone with access to your feed that you’re out of town, and your house is vacant, inviting home invasions and burglaries.

Play it safe, and always wait until you get back to share information about a vacation, and make it clear you are now home.

#5: Beware the Daisy Chaining Trap

Daisy chaining refers to the way in which several of your accounts can be accessed by simply accessing your social media account. Picture that Login With Facebook prompt you’re so used to seeing.

While it is convenient, this feature also means that if a hacker gets your login information for Facebook, they could potentially access a lot of other sites and services with those credentials too. And of course, if you use the same password for multiple accounts, you’re really in trouble.

#6: Avoid Public WiFi Whenever Possible

If you really want to protect your information, one of the smartest things you can do is avoid using your social media accounts on unsecured public networks. Using these networks puts you at serious risk of having your login information stolen. It’s very easy to do, and it happens all the time.

If you can’t live without WiFi hotspots though, take the precaution and use a VPN to prevent your login information from falling into the wrong hands.

Social media is an incredible tool, and it’s allowed people to network in a way never before possible. From support systems to family connections, to marketing campaigns and sales, the use of this powerful tool is almost necessary in today’s society.

However, be aware of the risks that you are taking, and be even more aware of how to prevent them. Understanding how sites such as Facebook and Twitter work are key to protecting yourself and your family, so make sure you fully understand the way your information can be used and shared before you use them.

Has a photo of yours ever been shared without your permission? How did you handle it?

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