Whether it’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month in October or Safer Internet Day in February, it’s always important to remember to be safe online every day. As technology continues to become more integrated into our daily lives, there are settings and security features that can be used to ensure your information and digital identity remain under your control.
It’s a social world
The most dominating force on the Internet today is social. Right now, I have friends pinning their wedding ideas, instagramming lattes, snapchatting outfits, checking into restaurants on Foursquare, vining videos of their cats, sharing newborn baby photos on Facebook, and tweeting in anticipation of The Walking Dead premiere. As these services become more and more popular, they are targeted more frequently by scams, spam, and phishing attempts.
Know your settings
Symantec Security Response advises social users to familiarize themselves with the privacy settings and security services offered by each of these social networks and applications.
- Public or private? By default, many of these services encourage you to share updates publicly. Most offer privacy as a global setting to make your profile public or private, while some offer more options, allowing you to make individual posts public or private. Make sure you review these settings before posting to these services.
- Strong passwords and password reuse. Use a strong password for each service and be sure not to reuse passwords across your social networks.
- If available, set up two-factor authentication. Some services like Facebook and Twitter offer two-factor authentication as an added measure of security for your account. Normally, to login to a service, you input a password, which is something you know. Using two-factor authentication introduces something you have, usually in the form of a randomly generated number or token that can delivered to your phone through SMS or a number generator within the services’ mobile application. This way, if your password is compromised, the thief will need the generated two-factor authentication token before they can login.
Know your enemy
The biggest enemies of most social networking and application users are the spammers and scammers that want to hijack your social accounts to peddle spam, convince you to fill out surveys, or install applications.
- Free stuff is not free. Many scammers will try to entice you with the idea that you can win free gadgets or gift cards if you fill out a survey, install an application, or share a post on your social network. It just isn’t that easy and by doing so, you could give away your personal information.
- Want more followers and likes? There is always a price to pay for trying to get more followers and likes. Whether that’s paying money for fake followers and likes or willingly giving up your account credentials and becoming part of a social botnet. These schemes aren’t worth it.
- Trending topics are ripe for abuse. Whether it’s sporting events or pop stars, the death of celebrities, popular television season or series finales, or the newest gadget announcement, scammers and spammers know what’s popular and will find a way to insert themselves into the conversation to trick users into doing their bidding. Know that this is inevitable and think twice before blindly clicking on links.
- Is this picture or video of you? These scammers want your password and they’ll attempt to convince you to unknowingly give it to them. This is called phishing. If you click on a link and it takes you to a webpage that looks like a login page for a social networking service, don’t just type in your password. Check the address bar to make sure it’s not some long URL that has the word Twitter or Facebook in it. Open up a new browser tab and manually type in twitter.com or facebook.com to see if you’re still logged in. More often than not, you probably are.
Knowledge is power
Understand that as new social networking services and applications become popular in the mainstream, the scammers and spammers will not be far behind. If you take the time to understand the privacy settings and additional security features offered to you on these services, you are taking the first step towards being safer and more secure online. Additionally, if you know who is after your information and the various ways they will try to trick you into giving up that information, you can make better decisions about what links to click, what posts to share, and where it is safe to type in your password.
Want to help your fellow social users? Share this post with your friends and family on your various social networks.