Social media is a main channel of communications today for Americans. In 2020, there were some 233 million social network users in the United States, the equivalent of about three quarters of the country’s population.[i]Most studies put Facebook on top as the most popular platform in the US based on number of monthly users, but YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and messenger apps like What’sApp are also widely used. These platforms give us the ability to interact in a way that is convenient and personalized, and through our interactions we often end up sharing a lot of information. It’s important to be aware of the data you share and how it might be misused if you don’t take a few precautions to protect yourself.
There are four areas to consider in taking steps to protect yourself online and specifically when using Social Media platforms.
Reviewing Social Media Privacy Settings
Every application stores some amount of your data, and it’s important to understand the information that you share and how you can better safeguard your data using privacy settings. A quick Google search for privacy settings on any platform is a fast way to finding these features and limiting what is publicly available.
Managing Passwords and Access
We all know how annoying it is to have 40 different passwords for different websites. However, using the same password for every site you use puts you at a far greater risk of being compromised. Here are some rules of thumb regarding passwords and access:
- Know how many devices have access to your accounts. Many of us today (especially families) have a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, and even multiple mobile devices on one network. If one device is compromised, say, you forgot your tablet on the plane, this may put your accounts at risk.
- Whenever possible, add that extra layer of protection to login, whether it is dual-factor authentication or another form of secondary login (via text or email, for instance).
- Change your passwords regularly, whether it’s every three months and twice a year. If you’re concerned about having too many different passwords, there are programs available that store all of your passwords in one place, such as Last Pass.
Being Aware of the Data You Share About Yourself
Have you ever wondered why the ads you see on social media and on other websites seemingly know a lot about you? This happens for several reasons, including cookies that you agree to when you visit certain websites and information that you share about yourself on your profile. Google, for instance, though not a social media platform, often integrates with these applications and shares information about you when you select the “sign in using Google” option. Visit Google’s Ads Settings page to see what kind of information that is stored about you. Additionally, social media sites offer ways to see what is stored about you and gives you the option to export all your data. It can be really eye opening to see what is out there!
Following Best Practices For Posting on Social Media
Hackers have gotten very clever in how they glean data from potential victims, and social media is a goldmine of personal information. Imagine each data point is a puzzle piece; a scammer’s goal is to put enough of these pieces together to create vulnerabilities. Here are some things to consider carefully before sharing on social media:
- Your new house address. While tempting to post a photo of you holding the keys in front of your new home, pay attention to your surroundings. Is your car in the driveway with your license plate showing? Is your mailbox visible with the number on it?
- Your upcoming (or current) vacation. Most of us know not to post countdowns to big vacations, as it alerts hackers and other criminals that you won’t be home on certain days.
- Your current location. The “check in” feature can be fun at restaurants or concerts. However, it lets people know that you’re not at home and it also shows nearby people exactly where you are – which can leave you vulnerable especially if you’re alone.
- Quizzes that ask you questions about your personal life. These are so fun and entertaining! However, some of these are very sneaky ways for scammers to grab pieces for their puzzle. Questions like, “Your first grade teacher’s name and the street you grew up on is your pet’s name,” offer two valuable pieces of content that might match to security questions on financial portals.
- Anything related to your investments. This may seem obvious, but sometimes we offer information inadvertently about our finances when we comment on public posts.
- Photos of expensive purchases like jewelry, electronics, vehicles, etc. Again, this may see obvious, but it can be very tempting to share photos of a new gift from a loved one or a dream car that now sits in your driveway. Criminals like to see these too!
- Important dates and milestones. Your wedding anniversary, the year you graduated high school, your grandchild’s birthday, etc. All of these are wonderful to celebrate, just be careful how you share this information in a public setting.
As a general rule of thumb, here are some tips that we recommend when using social media sites:
- Treat any “about me” fields on any social media as optional. What benefit do you have in offering this information about yourself?
- Study and update your privacy settings. Each platform is different, but they all offer the option to protect your privacy.
- Use the location-sharing features sparingly. It’s convenient to turn on GPS features when you’re using an app and want to find something near you. Just remember that these platforms can track your location no matter where you are.
- Know the people who you connect with on social media. Don’t accept Friend and Follow requests from people you don’t know in real life.
- Create strong, private passwords and change them regularly.
Our Take on Social Media
Private Ocean currently has a presence on Facebook, LinkedIN, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. We take data privacy very seriously and our team of technology professionals are constantly monitoring all aspects of our technology to ensure our clients information is protected. As we are a highly regulated industry, we are obligated to archive everything we post, and everything is pre-approved in advance. Beyond that, our entire team receives training on cybersecurity measures, so nothing ever slips through the cracks.
Social media is meant to entertain, inform, help us stay connected to others, and offer information about goods and services that interest us. It’s a centralized online experience, and the majority of adults in the US take advantage of these platforms in some form or another. If you have any questions about social media best practices, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Google Security Statement: https://safety.google/security-privacy/
- Facebook Security basics: https://www.facebook.com/about/basics/stay-safe-and-secure
- LinkedIn Account and Privacy Settings: https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/66
- Twitter Safety and Security: https://help.twitter.com/en/safety-and-security
- Instagram Privacy and Safety: https://about.instagram.com/blog/tips-and-tricks/privacy-and-safety-tips-for-instagram
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