How to Stay Safe on Social Media & Online
While most people who use social networking sites are well intentioned, you need to be careful about the information that you share and how you protect it. People can inadvertently or intentionally use your information to embarrass you, to damage your reputation, or even to steal your identity. Staying safe online takes some diligence and intelligence on your part, but it’s all essentially common-sense stuff that you just need to pay attention to. If you can be cognizant of the atmosphere and always willing to put in a little extra effort, you can greatly reduce the risks associated with social media.
The following are some easy tips on how to protect yourself:
Keep personal information personal.
Be cautious about how much personal information you provide on social networking sites. The more information you post, the easier it may be for a hacker or someone else to use that information to steal your identity, access your data, or commit other crimes such as stalking.
Use the privacy and security settings, they exist for a reason.
Whether Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or some other social networking site, they all have privacy settings you should use to lessen your risk of being hacked. Browse around the site that you are using and become familiar with them – you want to ensure some pretty strict settings in order to stay safe! They are there to help you control who sees what you post and manage your online experience in a positive way. When applicable, set the privacy and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s OK to limit how you share information.
Know and manage your friends.
Social networks can be used for a variety of purposes. Some of the fun is creating a large pool of friends from many aspects of your life. That doesn’t mean all friends are created equal. Use tools to manage the information you share with friends in different groups or even have multiple online pages. If you’re trying to create a public persona as a blogger or expert, create an open profile or a “fan” page that encourages broad participation and limits your personal information. Use your personal profile to keep your real friends (the ones who you know and trust) more synched up with your daily life.
Be honest if you’re uncomfortable.
If a friend posts something about you that makes you uncomfortable or you think is inappropriate, let them know. Likewise, stay open-minded if a friend approaches you because something you’ve posted makes him or her uncomfortable. People have different tolerances for how much the world knows about them, so respect those differences.
Know what actions to take.
If someone is harassing or threatening you, remove them from your friends list, block them, and report them to the site administrator.
Pay attention to what you are posting.
This tip covers your safety, but it also covers your reputation – that’s something that must stay safe. So, bottom line, always pay attention to what you’re posting. Make sure that you’re not giving out any essential information; even if it’s in a private message to someone you think you can trust. Before you post any material, give it an hour or so, re-read it, and see if it’s still something you think is worth posting.
Once posted, always posted.
Protect your reputation on social networks. What you post online stays online. Think twice before posting pictures you wouldn’t want your parents or future employers to see. Recent research found that 70% of job recruiters rejected candidates based on information they found online.
Take a look at this Microsoft Survey below:
Your online reputation can be a good thing.
Recruiters respond to a strong, positive personal brand online. So show your smarts, thoughtfulness, and mastery of the environment.
Keep the really personal stuff personal.
Now it’s okay to be friendly and personable, but not overly personal. People finding out your real phone number, your address, etc. can use this information nefariously. Far too often people choose passwords that are simply personal things to them, and then they end up giving away that personal information incrementally. Keep your personal information personal.
Know your friends.
Just because a person is your fan or follower on Instagram or Facebook doesn’t mean they’re your friend. Yes, it sounds cruel, and you should definitely treat them as friends to an extent. When it’s all said and done, you’re not attending their weddings or sending airfare support for a Vegas vacation. So before you start treating anyone like a friend, find out a little more about them.
Hey, don’t click that link!
Well, you want people to click and follow-through on the links you post, but you shouldn’t be quick to do the same. You can trust you, but can you trust that the link you’re clicking from a supposed “friend” doesn’t contain malware or some sort of spying program so be cautious about what information you are trying to access.
Links in email, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or if appropriate, mark as junk email.
Tidy up your machine.
Staying safe in social media means staying safe online in general, this is where a good anti-virus program comes in handy. Regular sweeps, daily (if possible), will help to keep you a lot safer. Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats.
Use a reputable e-commerce outlet.
Your money needs to be protected too! If you’ve followed along so far, then now you have to make sure that the actual sites you’re using are holding up their end. Don’t use some obscure e-wallet or e-commerce outlet because you can save a few bucks. Make sure you’re using reputable companies for your e-wallet and cart needs.
Make passwords long and strong & have separate e-mail accounts.
Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a more secure password. Your main e-mail should be separate from your social media account email. For instance, when you sign up for Facebook, go ahead and create a new email to do it. It takes about three minutes, it’s 100% free, and you can easily keep track of one extra email. If someone gets into one of your accounts, they won’t have access to more than one of your networks. Also, for passwords, as briefly mentioned above, don’t use something obvious. Mix things up and create complex passwords, making sure to change them every few months. Separate passwords for every account helps to thwart cybercriminals. Don’t ever share your password with anyone else.
Lock your screen or device.
You wouldn’t go out for the day and leave your front door wide open, right? The same principle applies to the devices you use. You should always lock your screen when you finish using your computer, laptop or phone. For added security, you should also set your device to automatically lock when it goes to sleep. This is especially important for phones or tablets, which are more likely to get misplaced and discovered by people you don’t want to access your information, and home computers that are in shared spaces.
On many computers, you can lock your screen by going into your computer’s Systems Preferences. For your phone or tablet, locking your device with a PIN or pattern helps provide an extra layer of security for your data.