With your physical life becoming integrated with your cyber life, social media has become the important tool to keep in touch with your work and friends. With the advent of social networks like Facebook, WhatsApp Twitter, YouTube, FourSquare, and Google+, we have changed the way we interact with our bosses, colleagues, and friends.
Social media plays a significant role in our lives and by default they are also a high risk for security threats. Cyber risks are directly proportional to popularity. The more popular any App or service is, the more risks it has from cybercriminals. Take Facebook for instance. With over billion users, it is the most hacked social media network. To make sure that your social media account doesn’t get hacked, you need to know the threats you face from cybercriminals to better prepare your self.
Here are the top five security threats currently out there to help you stay safe online.
1. Identity Theft
You may be the cause of identity theft but mostly it is out of your hands. Cybercriminals target the company database to steal your personal information leaving you vulnerable. When a social media company suffers a data breach the cybercriminals get your login credentials even if you have your account on the highest security settings. Most social network store information like email address or birthday which is very valuable to criminals. The thieves then use this information to hack into your other accounts like the email account. Most websites including banks let users get access their accounts by clicking on “forgot password” and trying to recover the information through email. Once the thief has access to your email account it becomes easy for them to steal your money.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
Use a strong password.
The stronger your password, the harder it is to guess. Use special characters like symbols and capital letters when creating your password. Also, don’t use known paraphrases like your birth date or your wife’s/child’s name.
Always be careful when posting status updates.
An innocent looking social media update that you are going out of town for holidays can incur serious consequences. Cybercriminals will know you are not home and use this opportunity to physically rob your house. Likewise posting happy birthday to your wife or mother can divulge the birth dates of your near and dear ones. A popular security question is “What is your mother’s maiden name?” and if you share that online, you run the risks of identity thieves getting the answer to this commonly used question.
Shut your location off
Location can reveal so much to criminals so don’t reveal your location. You can use a fake location or make one up from another city and state. You may even be able to leave this information blank. Be cautious and never use a city and state where you live.
2. Computer Or Social Profile Hack
Another threat is malware. Cybercriminals use specific malware to steal your social media credentials. They can do so via phishing email or spurious websites. Such keylogging software can steal your identity, inject a virus into your computer, and steal bank account information, etc. Shortened URLs, such as those created on bit.ly, are especially susceptible to hackers. Shortened URLs can trick users into visiting spurious malware-laden sites where personal information can be compromised because the full URL is not visible.
The best advice is to never click on a link even if you receive it from a friend. Better still is to confirm over the phone that your friend sent you the link.
You can identify spurious links by following methods :
- Hover over the link. Hover your mouse over the links in the email. Your browser will show you the source link in the bottom left corner. If the link contains HTTPS or is recognizable, click it. If it shows an unknown website, avoid it.
- Try a link scanner. You can also use link scanner tools to verify the URL of a website. Try URLVoid or MyWOT or virus software which offers link scanner features.
- Avoid shortened links. A shortened link is popular on sites like Twitter where character length matters. Some shortened link sites include bit.ly, Ow.ly, and TinyURL. Use a service like Sucuri to determine if the real link is secure.
3. Inadvertent threats
When you use social networking sites, you are posting personal information. Once information is posted online, it’s no longer private and can fall into the wrong hands. The more you post, the more vulnerable you become to those who may wish to harm you. Some of the information that you post is so risky that even having highest security settings can protect you. Cybercriminals can know the websites you subscribe to, the apps you download, and the games you play through your social media posts.
4. Letting Your Whereabouts Be Known
Your whereabouts may not interest your friends and colleagues but they are definitely interesting to a criminal. Announcing to the world where you live in inviting burglars to your house. Common burglars can break into your home in less than 60 seconds and spend less than 10 minutes stealing your possessions. By telling the world you are on vacation out of the city, you’re letting potential thieves know where you are, how long you’ll be gone, and where you live.
- Many thieves use cyberstalking to find your every move so avoid posting specific travel plans. Even if you post the place you visit, never, ever divulge when, or how long you’ll be gone. Wait until you are home to post pictures to a vacation album.
- Another way to protect your information is to use highest privacy control. Only let certain groups, like a family group, view your personal update posts.
- Be selective with the status updates. You can specify who can see your posts using the dropdown menu on Facebook.
- Go offline once you commence your vacation. Do not post photos or status updates when you are on vacation.
5. Becoming Overconfident
Overconfidence always leads to misery. Remember, having an extra powerful firewall, antivirus of VPN can only save you up to a point of your carelessness. May users become overconfident as long as they have a firewall and an antivirus installed. There is also a section of users who believe that they don’t have anything worth hacking so there’s no need to worry about security. They forget that their status updates can harm their immediate family or friends. With today’s technology, we are more connected to each other than ever before. When you neglect security, you not only put yourself at risk, but others are at risk as well.
Finally, you know the threats. Be careful with your social media accounts and avoid posting following information on your Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare WhatsApp Groups :
- Vacation and travel itinerary
- Bank account information
- Your full address and birthdate
- Your children’s’ names, school, and birthdates
- Location information, such as the name of your workplace
- Your daily schedule