Social networking has drastically changed the way people interact with their friends, associates and family members. Although social networks, like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Snapchat and FourSquare, play a major role in our day to day lives, I have also come to discover that they could also pose serious privacy risks. When using these social media sites, it’s quite important to know and understand the privacy risks involved. I recently had an encounter withPhilip Scala, a private investigator based in New York. Below are some of the things I learned from him on the privacy risks that comes with the use of social media.
Privacy Risks on Social Media
Nowadays, hackers prowl the social media networks looking for victims. They tend to use the shortened URLs like those which are created with bit.ly. They use these shortened URLs to trick their victims into visiting harmful sites or to inject viruses into their computers or mobile phones. Hackers also use spyware which they can easily install on your mobile phone, laptop, iPad or/and computer remotely via downloads, emails, shortened URLs or instant messages. The spyware gives the hacker information about the passwords you use on your social media networks and other accounts which you access online. The simplest way to avoid being a victim, is to never click on links unless you’re sure of the actual source.
Most of the social media sites have information that’s required, like your birthday and email address. Identity thieves tend to gather their victims’ personal information from the information available on the social media sites. Many identity thieves tend to hack their victims email accounts by simply using the personal information available on social media profile. For instance, one of the more common techniques used by identity thieves, is clicking on the “forgot password,” and then trying to recover the password via email. Once they access your email account, they basically have access to all of your personal information.
Social media sites utilize mobile apps and the location based services to allow users to check in at their current locations. This normally reveals the user’s current location to all of the people they are connected with in their particular social media networks. The information posted can be easily used by malicious people to track your whereabouts. Moreover, telling the online community where you are, or where you are going to, can end up inviting burglars and thieves to your home or business. For instance, by posting your current location and saying that you are on a long vacation in Australia, you will be letting the potential burglars or/and thieves know exactly where you are, and how long you will be gone. To mitigate such risks, you should avoid posting your travel plans, and using the location based services.
Tips For Protecting Your Privacy On Social Media
Create strong passwords; the stronger your passwords are, the harder it will be to guess. You can include special characters such as symbols, numbers, and capital letters in your password. Also, do not use some common passwords, like your child’s name, wife’s name or birthday.
Review your social media profiles and pay close attention to the way each profile lets you protect sensitive personal details. Some social media sites like Facebook gives you the opportunity of restricting access to certain friends, family members and colleagues. Also take advantage of the enhanced privacy options which are offered by social media sites like blocking the messages from strangers. For most people, their setting is set in a way that their Facebook likes are easily visible to anyone. There are strategies that can be employed to stop people from snooping on you on Facebook.
Install a good antivirus and anti-spyware; it’s essential you’ve a software that will protect you from malware, viruses, and spyware. Get the latest antivirus and anti-spyware software and make sure you have it regularly updated with all the latest malware definitions. For extra security, you can update all of the critical applications, including the operating system, your internet browsers, and such other programs which are prone to attacks.
When you use social media, you are basically posting personal information online. When that information gets posted online, it is no longer private, and may end up falling into wrong hands. Even if you have put in place the highest possible security measures, some of your friends, colleagues and companies you interact with on social media, can end up leaking your personal information. Therefore, you need to be very careful about what you post online, else, you will end up giving the would-be burglars, stalkers, cyber bullies and identity thieves the information they require to cause harm.
By Sam Cohen