Social media is an inescapable part of both personal and business life. Increasingly, the information shared on social platforms is valuable and can put users at risk. Accessing accounts over insecure networks, poor password habits, and posting information that should remain private all increase the risk of exposure.
The more people share online, the more information people risk exposing that information publicly. Even companies that state they protect personal data and individual privacy may fail to do so. With the global increase in privacy awareness and an increase in cyber crime, individuals increasingly risk sensitive data falling into unwanted hands.
But It Is Only Social Media, Right?
A breach of a social media account might not seem like a big deal, but social media accounts hold more information than most people realize. Credit cards are often connected to them, images or private messages can be stolen, as well as the obvious threat of identity theft.
McAfee reports that the “majority of current attacks simply use the social platforms as a delivery mechanism, and have been modeled after the older Koobface malware. However, researchers are now anticipating that advanced attacks against social media networks will be able to leverage a user’s contacts, location, and even business activities. This information can then be used to develop targeted advertising campaigns toward specific users, or even help spark crime in the virtual or real world.”
The Risks Are No Longer Hypothetical
Within the last year, both well known and unheard of social media platforms have been in the news for various scandals, hacks and privacy violations.
In March 2018, the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal exploded, exposing that millions of people’s personal data had been harvested without their consent and used for political purposes. For this alone, the FTC is looking at issuing Facebook a record-setting fine. Again, in October 2018, Facebook was in the news for a hack resulting in the theft of over 30 million account logins, which exposed sensitive user data (private conversations and photos) and search history, as well as putting thousands of other sites at risk. Recently, the FTC began investigating Facebook for allegedly encouraging users to “share personal health information about their health issues” while failing “to protect uploaded sensitive health data” and exposing “the information to the public.” Finally, the FTC is investigating whether Facebook has engaged in “friendly fraud” by encouraging children to spend their parents’ money on online games.
Google has also been in the headlines for data protection and privacy violations. Early this year, Google earned the distinction of having the largest fine levied against them —so far— for violations of the newly implemented EU privacy regulation, the GDPR. The GDPR fine is $57 million dollars —statistically not a big impact to Google but historically a large milestone for privacy protection.
How to Use Social Media Without Getting Used By It
For many, not using social media is not an option. In order to stay safe online following
- Close unused accounts.
- Keep apps, firewalls, and anti-virus software updated.
- Practice good password hygiene — and use different passwords for each account.
- If you wouldn’t say or do it in public, don’t share it on social media. Remember that once something is on the internet, it is always there — even if you delete it from your account, you can never be sure it is gone from everywhere.
- Keep personal data private (birthday, address, phone number, email) and if it doesn’t have to be there at all, don’t give it.
- Check your privacy settings often — especially when setting up the account as the default might be public.
- Avoid letting anyone know where you are or where you will be somewhere. Giving away schedules can let the wrong people know when you aren’t at home or where to find you. Also, disable location service, and don’t check in or tag things while at the location.
- Check photos before posting – make sure addresses and other sensitive info is censored.
- Know your friends and be aware of what information (or photos) they share about you.
- Be cautious with links or attachments.
- Only use trusted wireless networks; avoid free public Wi-Fi.
- Use two factor identification.
- Don’t use social credentials to sign into third party sites. Avoid games and apps that require access to your social profiles. Be aware of what you agree to with third party applications.
Not using social media platforms may not be an option, but choosing wisely how you access them and being selective regarding the information that gets shared is. Everyone can become a wise user of social media and learn to better safeguard against crime and identity theft. Stay wise. Stay aware. Stay secure.