There’s no denying that social networks have been taking over the world for well over a decade, and there’s a good reason for that: social media embodies everything for which the internet stands. It allows people to share infinite information and connect on an instantaneous basis with family or friends who might be anywhere in the world. Of course, given that level of connectivity, you have to take the good with the bad. You have to be as smart as you would be in the real, physical world, but many people fail to remember this.
If you shared personal information on the street, you’d probably feel a little uneasy and vulnerable to opportunistic strangers who might be listening in. Yet, for some peculiar reason, our society has become very comfortable with what is almost a requirement to overshare on social media. Whilst we were once taught to never share anything on the internet, now a maintained image of popularity almost demands it. Our social media profiles can be a hub of personal, sensitive details regarding our lives if we’re not careful about how we use these sites.
Yes, you might only add friends and family members who you know on social media, but many people still forget how public the internet is. They forget to remove personal information or put in safeguards to stop anyone viewing their public profiles on Instagram or Twitter. Even the vaguest post can tell somebody a lot about you. If you want to avoid putting yourself at risk on social media, here are some tips for protecting yourself against the threats posed by the major networks.
Know when to post and when not to post.
When you share a story with your friends in a bar, a club or a restaurant, a few strangers might overhear, but there are genuinely no consequences. You might talk about all manner of scandalous things, and I’m not suggesting that you’re so inept on the internet that you’d make a public post on Facebook announcing your deepest darkest feelings about someone or your deepest dark secret in general (though it probably wouldn’t be the first time somebody has done that on a social network). Posting a funny picture or video, however, can have its consequences too.
The amount of people who have seen their videos go viral and endured the brutal aftermath is far too high a number to count. Viral fame lasts mere days, so it’s not a case of being hated forever, but people have lost jobs and friends through posting jokes which were taken offensively by the general public. If you’re thinking of posting an edgy picture and an edgy caption to go with it, the best piece of advice is: don’t. There’s every chance a few more people than just your friends could be seeing that picture if it’s shared around.
Even businesses need to stay alert.
Train employees in computer security. That’s the best piece of advice I can give, as it’s where most companies go wrong. They fail to notice that, for all their costly tech defenses, they can be targeted through blissfully unaware workers. If you want to ensure your business is protected from social engineering, which is the act of accidentally inviting hackers though the front door, then you need to train your employees in digital and online security.
It’s easy to think that your business is safe if you have an experienced and professional team working around the clock to protect your data from the inside, but when hackers attack from the outside, they’re not going to look for a way in past the solid wall of defense. They’re going to look towards that employee who is likely to open a spam email and unwittingly share precious company information with a stranger. Social media isn’t only dangerous on a personal level, but it can cost businesses millions or billions on an unfathomable scale.
Monitor your children.
Another big worry for parents in the modern age is monitoring their children’s internet and computer activity. It’s hard to give them the personal freedom and privacy you feel they deserve whilst also keeping them safe from the dangers of the world which they may not know about or fully understand yet. The best piece of advice I can give, in this regard, is to ensure that your young child uses a family computer until they’re older and mature enough to use the internet wisely and responsibly.
Simply putting in a few internet safeguards to protect your child or children from malicious sites is a start. They might not know about the techniques used to infect computers with viruses, but monitoring their internet history is also important. I’m not saying you should browse through every message they send to their best friend, Lucy, but you should be having a quick check to ensure no strangers have been talking to her in a manner deemed inappropriate. In fact, it’s simply a good idea to check out your child’s social media profile now and then to ensure they’re not over sharing sensitive information. Even other kids at school could use a post to tease, bully or harass your child.
Beware suspicious links.
Yes, this is age-old advice on the internet, but people still fall for tricks both old and new because scammers can be very subtle with their techniques. Shortened links are a big “NO!” as they could be hiding any number of suspicious webpages beneath the surface; most likely a redirection to a site which installs a piece of malware onto your computer. A rule of thumb is to check and double check the sources from which you get information. Fake versions of official brands and companies pop up all the time offering links to intriguing articles which are really just phishing bait or any one of a number of social networking worm threats.
Being smart on social media is about treating each profile and each network as a public platform. You wouldn’t blindly trust strangers in the real world, so you shouldn’t on the internet.