There’s a reason that, according to Norton, the US will be spending $15 billion on cybersecurity this year.
For one, social media platforms leave us all open to cyberstalking, phishing scams, and information sharing – to name just a few common risks.
In this article, we’ll be discussing some prominent privacy concerns on social media as well as effective solutions that’ll keep you protected in the face of the growing threat.
What are the risks?
As early as the 1990s, people used to regularly have unlisted phone numbers. In those days, privacy prevailed.
Now – given the power of social media – addresses, workplaces, family members, and your current location are all available to strangers at the click of a button. Your smartphone possesses geolocation data that’s readily available to any offender, and that’s if you’re not already voluntarily tagging your location.
What’s more, social media has become all but mandatory. According to Business News Daily, many employers view the absence of social media activity as a reason not to interview a candidate. This means most of us can’t mitigate risk by avoiding social media altogether. This leaves everybody vulnerable to security issues.
Unlike face-to-face stalking, 40 percent of cyberstalking victims are men. Statistics show that 1 in every 45 men experience some form of cyberstalking behavior, compared to 1 in every 12 women.
We’re all vulnerable to a wider range of threats than we used to be. A simple disagreement with the wrong person on Twitter could lead to a case of cyberstalking. Potential offenders can also be encountered in everyday life and aren’t limited to the digital sphere. There have been cyberstalking cases over a parking spot dispute. All that’s needed is your name in order for somebody to procure a wealth of your personal information.
It’s one thing, for instance, to hire a marketer and filter candidates through various algorithms assessing social media influence, general conduct, and overall competence. If you were an advertising agency with a strong social media focus, this would make sense.
But regardless of their industry, 40% of companies now use social media to screen prospective candidates – even if the job has nothing to do with your online presence.
Unfortunately, many employers now scoff at a low social influence score, even if they’re impressed by your résumé. While it seems unreasonable, this reality means that not only must you cultivate your online presence in order to succeed, you must exercise extreme caution in doing so.
Have you ever mentioned your passion for kayaking in a Facebook messenger private conversation—then suddenly your feed was littered with ads for outdoor adventure stores?
Social media platforms now have algorithms and tools that monitor your comments, conversations, and shares. This information is offered to paying companies who in turn use your keywords to target their advertising. The goal, of course, is for these businesses to find the most relevant audience for their campaigns.
What’s even more concerning is that your information isn’t just being bought and sold by advertisers. Recent investigations have found vast troves of breached personal data from Facebook being illegally sold on the “dark web” for little more than a few dollars.
7 Steps to Stay Protected on Social Media
- Password Security
According to Verizon’s DBIR, 81% of hacking cases are because of stolen or weak passwords.
Having one easy-to-remember password for all of your accounts makes life less complicated for you. Unfortunately, it also makes life less complicated for anyone seeking malicious access to your profile.
Follow these rules to ensure optimal password safety:
- Mix capital letters, numeral, letters, and punctuation (e.g. instead of ‘gator56’ use g4T0r56).
- Change your password every 3 months.
- Use a unique password for each account.
- Research safe and effective methods to create and remember your password.
Be a Picky Friend
The Social Media Club reports 2-3% of Facebook accounts are fake. While that may seem small, that’s 60 million profiles in total. Their intentions include cyberbullying, cyberstalking, identity theft, and hacking.
If you don’t recognize someone who’s sent a friend request, decline it 100% of the time.
- Layer Your Security
Research shows that 80% of security breaches could be prevented with two-factor authentication.
In a nutshell, two-factor authentication is as simple as adding another verification layer beyond your password. It sends a code to your phone which is needed to complete your login.
Login verification is less intense and much more convenient. You won’t have 2 rounds of verification for every login, just when you’re logging in from an unknown device.
- Don’t Get Baited by Phishing Scams
Phishing schemes, which grew by 65% in 2018, utilize phony e-mails and malicious links.
The scammer sends the fake link pretending it has to do with a social media platform. After clicking through, you’ll be taken to what resembles a Facebook login page. If you enter your login credentials, the “phisher” will steal them and have access to your profile.
To avoid phishing scams, only open emails and click links from known legitimate sources.
- Reduce Third Party App Permissions
Apps that aren’t provided by default by your system – Apple, Android, or Blackberry – are considered third party and represent a potential security risk.
Third-party app stores are appealing because they have popular apps for much cheaper prices. But a slew of sensitive information can be extracted through third-party app stores because, unlike the major platforms, they don’t adhere to rigid privacy restrictions. Phone numbers, device information, email addresses, and social media passwords aren’t particularly safe when they’re in the hands of these unregulated companies.
Either avoid these apps altogether or revoke access to third-party apps you no longer use.
- Encrypt your traffic with a VPN
Thanks to changing regulations and a surge in security threats, the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) increased 165% worldwide in 2018.
VPNs encrypt your internet traffic and protect your personal information when connected to the internet through public hotspots like cafés or airports. If you’re having trouble picking, review websites like Top10VPN offer a range of guides to help you choose the safest provider.
- Social Media Privacy Settings
Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and every other social media platform have their own unique privacy settings.
It’s a confusing process for some, but a necessity if you want to beef up your social media security. Click here for detailed instructions on how to bolster each major platform’s respective privacy setting.
The digital age and the growth of social media are both positives overall. There’s an abundance of information at your fingertips which truly enriches your life. Plus, it’s easier than ever to stay connected with your family and friends.
On the flipside, social media can act as a powerful tool for those that have malicious intentions. With so much of our personal information readily available, it’s easy for these people to take advantage. Committing infractions like identity theft and cyberstalking on a large scale has never been easier.
In today’s climate, a social media presence is necessary to thrive. That being said, it’s important to take every precaution necessary to ensure your privacy remains intact.