Social media has become a substantial part of many people’s lives and can be an important tool. However, there are dangers associated with social media which you should be aware of. Some of these dangers are becoming more and more common, such as phishing attacks. Others are not so new, such as the possibility of account hijacking.
This guide aims to help you understand common risks and how to avoid them, as well as the measures that should be taken in the worst-case scenario.
Here are the top five things that everyone should do to protect their password and social media accounts.
Use Strong and Secure Passwords
The first thing you can do to protect your accounts is to use strong and secure passwords. A strong password should be at least 12 characters long and doesn’t contain too many common words. It’s probably best not to use your full name or any other personal information which can be easily guessed (for example, birthday). Adding numbers and symbols makes the password more secure. If you don’t want to remember a lot of different passwords but still want them to be strong, consider using a password manager like Keepass or LastPass.
Alternately, you can use passphrases. It’s still a good idea to have numbers and symbols in your passphrase, but you shouldn’t have to remember as many of these.
These passwords should be unique for every social media account and shouldn’t be used anywhere else (including other social media accounts). Using the same password on dozens of sites makes it easier for hackers to access all of your information; if they hack one site and steal your password, they can easily get into all of your accounts. This is known as credential stuffing.
Use Two-Factor Authentication Where Possible
2FA adds extra layers of security for some services by requiring more than just your password. Most commonly, this is done with an app on your phone that will generate random numbers within a time limit, which you then have to enter and your password to log in. Other examples of 2FA include codes sent via text message or by email. Most services that allow you to set up 2FA will give you a list of backup codes. These can be used if you lose access to the app on your phone and don’t have access to another way of getting into your account (either because you’re using a different operating system or the service only offers one type of authentication).
Be Careful with Third-Party Applications
Many social media accounts allow third-party applications, but be careful when you’re giving permissions to these. If the application seems sketchy, then there’s probably a reason for that. Either it will mine your data for information or use your account to spread spam. At best, this can cause problems with the service itself. At worst, hackers may be able to gain access to your accounts via these apps.
Some of these are keyloggers, which track every button you press and can even be used to get your password. Others are spam bots that take up space on your account or spread viruses to other users. Never give an app permissions it doesn’t need. If you still want to use the service, go directly to the source.
Be Careful With Your Privacy Settings
Privacy settings can be complex, but you should at least understand who can see what on your account. For example, if you don’t want strangers to see private posts, make sure your settings only allow friends to see them. On the other hand, be careful with automatically shared posts; set things like birthday wishes and tagged photos to ” Friends” rather than ” Public,” unless there’s a specific reason for it otherwise.
If you’re sharing something that could embarrass or hurt someone else (such as sensitive personal information), you should consider making it private so only those you know will have access to it. But remember that even if you’ve made all of your content public, this doesn’t mean everyone can see everything.
Run a Background Check on Yourself if You Feel Your Data has been Stolen
It’s worth doing a public data check if you’re concerned that your account may be at risk, as well as checking your credit report and hunting for any accounts that might have been opened in your name. Running background checks can give you a good idea of whether or not your account has actually been hacked, and it can also help you find out if anyone is trying to impersonate you.
Social media is an integral part of everything we do, so it makes sense that some people would want to gain access to your accounts. Unfortunately, if you use popular services, they’re more likely to be targeted by hackers simply because there’s a bigger audience. By using two-factor authentication wherever possible, being careful with who you give permissions to, and keeping an eye on the security settings on your account, you can make sure that your social media accounts and personal data remain safe.