Almost daily, it seems the news is reporting on criminal incidents involving social media, such as account hacking and stalking. Protecting yourself from threats like these requires taking a disciplined approach to how you share information online. Here are four tips for keeping your personal information safe while using social media sites.
Make it Hard to Hack Your Account
Keeping your personal information away from prying eyes starts with securing your social media accounts. Even taking basic steps—such as using a strong unique password for each site you use, enabling two-factor authentication, and logging into sites only using trusted devices—can fend off most attacks.
You can further protect your accounts, though, by avoiding using third-party apps and services to access and manage them. For example, many social media sites let you log in using your Google account. However, if your Google account gets hacked, the invader will also have access to your socials via the connection.
Though it may be a bit inconvenient, it’s better to keep your accounts walled off from each other to minimize the effects of cyber breaches and leaks.
Don’t Answer Meme Questions
You’ve likely seen a meme where you figure out what candy bar fits your personality by picking your birth month and day from a list. Although these memes can be fun to participate in, the reality is they are social engineering tricks to get you to divulge personal information. By answering this meme, for instance, a hacker will learn the day and month you were born, which is a common security answer.
Social media gimmicks like these cause you to unintentionally give people with nefarious intentions the ammunition they need to hurt you. Before you jump on the bandwagon and engage in memes like this, consider the information it’s asking for and whether that’s something you really want others to know.
Avoid Posting Photos with Identifying Information
Photos let you capture and share important moments in your life, but they often contain lots of identifying information. For instance, someone can tell what school your kid goes to by the shirt they’re wearing in the team photo. Posting pictures of your birthday party exposes when you were born, what’s in your home, and who your friends are.
It’s okay to share images, but anonymize them as much as possible. Be mindful of your background and avoid taking pictures with things, such as landmarks or street signs, that can reveal stuff you don’t want known. Use photo editing tools to obscure details you’d rather remain private, and remove EXIF embedded metadata (e.g. geolocation, phone type) from pictures before posting them online.
Choose Your Friends and Followers Wisely
While you may love your friends and family, unfortunately, they can often be the source of data leaks. Not everyone values privacy or understands how dangerous sharing certain things online can be, so you need to be selective about who has access to the stuff you post to your social media accounts.
Thoroughly vetting friend requests before approving them can go a long way towards ensuring you only have people in your network who respect you enough to keep your personal details private.
Use these tips and other tools to take control of your social media presence, so you can have fun online safely and securely.