Social networking sites are more popular than ever with around seven-in-ten Americans using social media, yet few people question the safety of these sites.
Social networking sites encourage users to share as much personal information as possible. Protecting privacy or personal information seems to come as an afterthought. While the majority of people on social networking sites don’t pose a threat, the accessibility and amount of personal information available make them a popular place for cyber criminals and online predators to look for victims. Attackers use social networking sites to spread viruses and launch social engineering in an attempt to steal your identity. In a social engineering attack, attackers impersonate people their victims know and request sensitive private information from them. That’s why securing your social media account is so important.
Be wary of fake profiles on Facebook or any other social media network for that matter. Fake profiles are dangerous because they’re usually operated by cyber criminals who are trying to steal your information. By extracting your personal information they can put together a profile on you that they can sell or use to apply for loans and credit cards, among other things.
Think before you post anything on social media as what you post can greatly impact your professional reputation, personal relationships, and personal safety. For instance, inappropriate content may threaten your educational and career prospects. Revealing when you will be away from home, can increase the risk of having your home burglarized. Sharing photos and personal details of your children can put them in danger with child predators.
Ensure your safety on social media by following these social media security guidelines:
- Don’t use social media as a diary. Know that anything you post on social media or the internet for that matter (even if you think it is private) can be made public and that anyone could see it. Once something is online, there is no guarantee you can ever permanently remove it. Search engines may cache it even after you delete it.
- Use strong privacy and security settings to better protect your personal information. Customize your settings to restrict access to only people you know. Regularly evaluate changes to site privacy policies and update your privacy settings.
- Choose third-party applications cautiously and limit the amount of information they can access. Only use applications by vendors you trust and avoid applications that seem suspicious.
- Limit the amount of personal information you share especially to people you don’t know. Never post sensitive information such as your address, contact information, or information about your schedule or routine. Sharing too much personal information opens you up to social engineering attacks and identity theft.
- Protect your account and use strong passwords that cannot be easily hacked.
- Keep your web browser and anti-virus software up to date. Install software updates so that attackers cannot take advantage of known vulnerabilities.
- Don’t click on unknown links even from people you know to avoid phishing attacks. Open the link, only if you know and trust where it’s coming from.
More on Staying Safe on Social Media
- United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team: Staying Safe on Social Network Sites
- United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team: Guidelines for Publishing Information Online
- CSO Online: Seven Deadly Sins of Social Networking Security:
- United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team: Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks