Social media has become one of the world’s most popular pastimes and communication tools. In fact, as of this year, more than two billion people have profiles on Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Snapchat, or some other social media platform. And if nearly half the world is doing it, you might think you have nothing to worry about. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is that because so many people do use social media, it attracts a lot of negative interaction along with the positive. It’s important to stay informed about the threats to your security and take some steps to protect you and your family.
Social media can lead criminals right to you
You’ve probably noticed that when you post a tweet or update your Facebook status, the site automatically tags your location. But what you may not know is that when you take a photo with your phone, it also tags your location along with dates and times. Every smartphone has GPS programmed into it, which is a great tool for locating a lost phone or even a lost relative. But it has also allowed people to fall prey to stalkers and other criminals by exposing themselves so vulnerably. One such incident happened almost 10 years ago when a smartphone user was posting photos of her dog on the internet. She suddenly received an anonymous text letting her know that he knew exactly where she was. In this case, the “stalker” turned out to be a professional in the cyber security industry out to warn people of the dangers of geotagging. But he proved his point loud and clear, showing her just how easy it is for anyone to find someone using social media. Step forward to 2018, the FBI is warning about the risk of criminals exploiting geo-tagged photos. You should should not disclose your “pattern of life” so criminals can’t physically target you or your family members.
Social media can compromise physical security
Do you work in a business or organization where physical security is always important? For example, location protection has become an issue for military personnel who could compromise their safety with the click of a button. The Department of Defense even warns civilian and military personnel of the default geo-tagging settings on their smartphones and enforces its deactivation in certain operational areas. But the same precautions also apply to the spouses and families of these military personnel. They are asked not to post specific locations or dates of any soldier’s deployment. If you post a geo-tagged post, you may be violating your organization’s social media policy. Organizations with these types of organizational and regulatory requirements are purchasing location monitoring solutions to stay secure, protect their employees and keep compliant.
Social media increases cyber security risk
Spear phishing is a phishing attack customized to target an individual or set of individuals. The goal of spear phishing is to increase the chances you will click a malicious link that hosts malware or a fake website designed to steal personal information. When you post too much on public social media, hackers gain access to troves of personal data that be used to create crafted spear phishing campaigns. Oversharing personal information on social media or tagging locations you frequently visit, shop and eat at provides hackers troves of material to craft emails that you probably will unwittingly click on.
How to protect yourself on social media
All it takes is someone with the right open source software to find out exactly where you are or where you frequently go. There are measures you can take to ensure your safety. Most people don’t want to completely disable their GPS devices in their phones. After all, it is helpful in locating it if it’s lost, or for locating a teen who’s missed curfew.
However, you can disable geotagging just for photos or social media. You will just have to check the settings for each platform. You can also take precautions in what and when you post information. There’s nothing wrong with posting updates about your vacation, but consider doing it well after you’ve returned home. You might also consider not posting photos of children that clearly show places they frequently go, such as daycare centers or schools.
If your an business owner, online influencer, traveling executive or you work for an organization that requires a lot of security, it is best to have a social media monitoring service to protect you online. The safety of yourself and your loved ones is probably your top priority. Make sure those responsible for your security take the proper steps and have the right technology, plan and process to reduce social your media risk.