Even if you’ve been on social media since its birth, do you really know all the threats running amuck over there? Maybe you’re one of the lucky people who haven’t run into Facebook scams and you don’t know exactly what that entails.
The nature of social networks enables users to easily upload and share photos, music videos, even thoughts and details about themselves. Social engagement thus flows with as little effort from the engaged users as a couple of keystrokes. But this very nature of social networks makes them the web hot spots for cybercrooks to concentrate their activity. They always go to big ponds, where there’s plenty of fish to catch. And Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and LinkedIn have become the hot spots where they launch their scams, hoping to breach the internet security of as many users as they can. Why, you may ask? Well, the majority of cybercrooks want to make some dirty, easy money leveraging on people’s enthusiasm. But there are also cyberstalkers, cyberbullies and even child predators who can invade your online privacy, sometimes taking the privacy threat to the real world.
In order to avoid falling victim to internet security and privacy dangers, you must be aware of them. Here’s a set of basic rules you might want to follow to keep yourself and your family and friends from falling victims to scams and security holes on social media.
10 basic rules for a safe social networking experience:
- 1. First and foremost, before setting up an account with a new social media website, make sure you read theirPrivacy Policies. If you haven’t checked them out, it’s not too late. Do it right away. And return from time to time to re-read them, as companies providing the networking platforms can update their Privacy terms at any time.
- 2. Choose a different password for every account you have and make sure it’s strong enough – make it at least 8-character long and mix letters, numbers and symbols.
- 3. Keep the sharing less personal and be careful who you friend or follow. How many Facebook friends do you have? How many people do you follow on Twitter and how many are following you? What about your LinkedIn connections? Some people have over 1000. But really, now – do they know everybody? Some of them might be stalkers looking to invade their online privacy or phishers looking to breach their internet security and get some personal data. If the number of friends and connections you have on social media exceeds your actual number of friends and acquaintances, be very careful what kind of information you share with them. Do not post your phone number, your e-mail address, home address, your full birthday, personal interests (like hobbies, sports etc.), and don’t check in regularly to your favourite restaurant, gym etc. – you don’t want stalkers, hackers and thieves knowing your daily itinerary.
- 4. Be suspicious of every e-mail you receive from a social media website you have an account with. Read it carefully – if there’s a link accompanied by a message warning you something’s happened to your account, do not click on it – it might be infected with malware. The same goes for documents attached to such e-mails. Also, if you spot spelling and grammar mistakes, the e-mail might be a phishing scam compromising your internet security. Go to their official Support page and ask them if the warning is valid.
- 5. Be sceptical of every too-good-to-be-true offer/gift/news on social media, even if it’s re-shared/re-pinned/liked by several friends or connections, and seems like coming from a reputable company. It might be part of a survey scam which might infect you with some virus, or trick you into handing over your social account and even bank account credentials. Either way, your internet security might be at risk. Ask your friends about it – if they shared it, they might have a clue if it’s valid. Also, check the website of the company that supposedly initiated it, see if you find anything about it there or e-mail their Support service.
- 6. Beware of social spam. Cybercrooks may create spambots or create fake social media accounts to send out thousands of messages containing links to phishing websites. Some links may also send you to websites that urge you to download some kind of internet security software, because, apparently, your PC has been infected. Don’t download anything. Get internet security software from a reputable company – if you don’t already have one – and scan your PC for potential malware.
- 7. Be careful with clicking on shortened links on social media, especially those generated by third party websites, such as the popular bit.ly. Cybecrooks can generate short links to malicious websites, and post them on social media accompanied by some misleading message to lure you into clicking on them. If you click, your internet security is compromised.
- 8. Avoid unnecessary add-ons and apps asking you for too many permissions. Cybercrooks may promote fake games and functionalities of a social network that in reality don’t exist.
- 9. Install effective internet security software that can protect you from all kinds of threats. BullGuard Internet Security 12 is a complete internet security suite which brings several layers of protection to any computer. It includes a Safe Browsing tool to flag out all malicious links in your search results and Facebook, an Antiphishing feature to protect you from phishing attempts, and state-of-the-art antivirus technology which brings together Signature-based and Behavioural-based Detection. Thanks to its dual antivirus engine, BullGuard can spot even the newest forms of malware.
- 10. Visit the social media websites’ Help Centres and learn more about safety and security issues, their recommended (best) practices and how to report the violation of your internet security and privacy, should that ever happen – hopefully not!