Social media platforms are used by one in three people in the world. As people increase the amount of information they share on social media, the need for heightened security and privacy also increases.
According to GlobalWebIndex, internet users spend an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes per day on social networks and messaging apps sharing personal content and information. The Pew Trust conducted a study that found 80% of social media users report being concerned about businesses and advertisers accessing and using their social media posts.
Unfortunately, social media platforms serve as attractive targets for fraud and theft since the platforms collect and store huge amounts of personal information with limited governmental oversight.
It’s important to be aware of these social media threats to keep yourself protected from them:
Everyone leaves a data trail behind on the internet. When you create a new social media account, you provide personal information which can include your name, birthdate, address, and personal interests. Be mindful of the amount of information you’re sharing.
Phishing is one of the most common ways criminals gain access to sensitive personal information. Often in the form of an email, text message, or phone call, a phishing attack presents itself as a message from a legitimate organization. These messages trick people into sharing sensitive information, like passwords, banking information, or credit card details.
Malware (malicious software) gains access to data in computers. Once malware has infiltrated a user’s computer, it can be used to steal sensitive information (spyware). Social media platforms are ideal for malware distributors. Once an account has been compromised (often by obtaining passwords through a phishing attack), cybercriminals can take over that account to distribute malware to all of the user’s friends or contacts.
Scammers using social media quizzes & photos
Resist the urge to participate in viral trends, posting pictures or taking online quizzes.
These can reveal information about yourself that hackers and scammers can use against you, such as your address, birthdate, or other sensitive information that can be used to hack your account passwords.
The Better Business Bureau and the National Cyber Security Alliance offers these tips to help safeguard your information:
- Review your security settings. Check your security settings on all social media platforms to see what you are sharing and with whom you are sharing.
- Change security questions/settings. If you are nervous about something you shared possibly opening you up to fraud, review and change your security settings for banking and other websites.
- Keep your photos private to protect yourself. Limit your audience reach for posts, status, photos, tweets, galleries and albums you share online. If you are on private photo sharing mode, make sure only the people you want to share with (friends, family) can see your photos.
We often use social media without a second thought. One of the most important things you can do is to simply stop and think. What you choose to share on social media is always your decision, but what others choose to do with your information may not always be in your control.