It’s not difficult to identify a social networker. This is the person who always keeps his or her phone within reach and responds to every alert. Networking websites have made it easy to stay connected with people all over the world. A social platform this wide, however, can make users vulnerable to cyberattacks and data theft if the person isn’t careful.
If you’re an avid social media fan, it’s crucial to understand the threats and learn safe practices to keep your information protected. With the right tools in hand, you can tap, swipe and type with confidence every time you pick up your device.
Projections from Statista predict that there will be approximately 3.02 billion social media users within the next couple of years. The sheer volume of potential targets can be appealing to cybercriminals, especially when the majority of users hold a false sense of security. The Facebook data breach of 2018 surprised many members because they believed their account credentials to be 100 percent safe.
Many cybercriminals are eager to gain access to social media accounts to spread false news reports and controversial rumors. This can lead to dangerous repercussions, but these attacks also have the potential to affect you on a more personal level. Information gained from these breaches may include the following sensitive pieces of information:
- Phone number
- Login credentials
- Credit card info
It’s also important to remember that many social accounts are linked. If a cybercriminal is able to take control of one account, he or she can potentially hack others. It’s not uncommon to use the same password for multiple sources, including banking websites or online tax prep programs. This means that once someone has your social media password, you might be in danger of further data theft with even more consequences.
It’s also possible that thieves could use your account to spread the same virus that gave them access to your social media profile. Friends who recognize your name won’t think twice about clicking on dangerous links because they trust you.
Cybercriminals can be extraordinarily patient. Many will stalk legitimate social media accounts for a lengthy period of time in order to gather information and prepare for a convincing attack. Through a business’ social account, someone may learn employee names and email addresses, along with organizational procedures and brand imaging. This information can be used to devise a threatening email scam.
In addition, devious individuals may use existing company profiles as a guide to creating fake accounts. It was recently reported that 19 percent of business social media accounts were fraudulent. Many of these posers were using brand names that people knew and trusted, such as Samsung or Amazon. The purpose of these accounts is to use them in one of the most profitable methods of cybercrime: phishing.
A popular aspect of social media is link-sharing. You read something interesting, you post a link, and all of your friends and followers can share a discussion around the information. All that a malicious user requires is a good hook on a trustworthy account to get more than enough clicks.
Navigating to a fake website or news story can make you vulnerable without you even realizing it. Many things can happen once you’ve selected a malicious link:
- Adware or malware is downloaded
- Account access is compromised
- Data files are deleted or corrupted
- Bad link is shared through your account
Cybercriminals are experts in computer science; they know how to develop software and program downloads to reveal whatever info they’re after. Many of them profit off of your information by selling it to identity thieves.
Safe Networking Habits
Although a staggering 72 percent of cyberattacks occur in North America, you can protect yourself by applying some smart tactics to your daily social media habits. A little knowledge goes a long way to protecting your account.
Take the time to think before you click on any shared news article, blog post or website. Make sure the account is one you trust and check the comments to see if others have reported the link as dangerous. You can sometimes preview shortened links, depending on the social platform you’re using.
Avoid following people who you don’t know. It’s difficult to confirm whether or not these accounts are fake, so it’s wise to exercise extra caution when adding friends. You should also keep your information private by only allowing your approved followers to see your posts.
Make your password unique and change it frequently. Use different login credentials for social media, banking accounts or government websites. This can help you keep your data safe when one password is compromised.
Be conservative with your posting. It’s popular to share every detail of your life with your social media followers but think carefully before you share something. You should never post your address or phone number on a public website. Be careful when taking pictures. While photographing one object, you may not even notice that your credit card is sitting in the corner of the frame.
Being prepared is a step in the right direction, but it pays to have a backup plan. Make sure your computer is protected with trusted antivirus software. If you think you’ve been exposed to a threat, run a scan to reveal any issues. These programs can aid in damage control after you’ve made a costly mistake. For more information about virus threats and your data protection, peruse additional useful articles through our website.