Vast swathes of the world’s population use social media, not just to keep in touch with friends and family, but also as a log in gateway to numerous other accounts. It is becoming more essential than ever that we are savvy about social media security. If you have social media accounts, read on to find out how you can protect yourself from common social media security threats.

Digital footprint

This is the term used to describe the information that you are leaving online for other people to see. This includes things that you post, or even just comment, on social media. Criminals can use this information to steal your identity or to help them create convincing phishing messages. Take a moment to think about what you are posting online and who has access to it. Have you checked your privacy settings lately? Do you know who can see your posts? If they are public then is the information suitable to be seen by everyone including, not just potential criminals, but even potential employers?

Two-step verification

To protect your accounts from hackers it is always a good idea to use 2-step verification (2SV); it is also known as 2-factor authentication or 2FA. This provides a way for companies to double-check that it is actually you trying to log in to their platforms. Even if they know your password, criminals will be unable to access accounts on which you have 2SV enabled.

Social media quizzes

Be wary of ‘fun’ social media quizzes that ask you to reveal personal details about yourself. Many viral social media quizzes are actually devised by hackers to gather information from the unwitting participants. Information such as your children’s names, your pet’s name, your favourite books, your school etc. can all seem harmless enough to reveal. After all, your friends already know all of these things so what harm can it do?

However, this information is an absolute treasure trove for a hacker. Many online accounts ask you to provide answers to some basic questions when you set them up so that if you forget your password, you can reset it. Guess where hackers can find the answers? The answers from a ‘fun’ quiz can be all they need to hack your account.

Third party apps

‘Your friend has invited you to play Vegetable Smash’ says the notification. All you have to do is connect to a third-party app and you can play. Before you click accept, take a moment to think is this app trustworthy? You may have enabled all of the privacy and security features in your own social media accounts but vulnerabilities in connected third-party apps can allow a hacker to gain access to your social media accounts through it.

Phishing scams

Many people are aware of phishing emails but many fail to recognise phishing scams on social media sites. Quite often a scammer will create a copy of a real account using their photos and some of their previous posts and will then post a special offer or competition. To enter, all people have to do is fill out a form with some personal details, often including bank details, and share the post. Once a post starts being shared, it gains perceived legitimacy as we are all more likely to trust something shared by a friend. Of course, the only one who wins is the scammer as the prize doesn’t exist but they have gained lots of valuable information.

You can simply report any email you think is a phishing scam to the National Cyber Security Centre who will investigate and remove any harmful email accounts and websites.

Mobile access

More than half of the time that we spend online is through a mobile device and most of us will be used to accessing our social media accounts through their apps on it. These stay permanently logged into our accounts allowing us to enter our accounts with a single tap and receive constant notifications. The convenience of being able to easily access our accounts often makes us overlook the obvious security risk that it poses.

If your phone is protected with a password or a fingerprint lock, it can reduce this risk. However, it is estimated that as many as over half of mobile phone owners have no lock on their phone. This means that if they leave it laying around or lose it, whoever picks it up has instant access to all of their social media accounts.

Taking just a few minutes to go over your social media security can save you hours of upset and potential financial loss.

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