It appears that almost anything goes on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can say what you want, share all sorts of secrets, and display silly and often embarrassing photos without giving it a second thought.
It’s not as safe out there in the social media cyber sphere as you might expect. Security experts point out several pitfalls when it comes to opening up online. Before you decide to post again, consider these social media safety tips:
Putting too much personal information out there is an invitation to cyber crooks, who are looking for opportunities to steal your identity or hack into your computer. Personal telephone numbers, physical mailing addresses, dates of birth, where you work or attend school — all of these can be useful to thieves. They also can leave you susceptible to stalkers. Parents should be especially cautious about what personal information their children post online.
Announcing that you’re away on vacation or out to dinner at your favorite restaurant could literally open the door for burglars if they know where you live. And when you post pics of your getaway or your favorite culinary dish for all to see? That’s another surefire way to set yourself up for a break-in.
Stay away from strange links
“This video is hilarious!” and “I can’t stop watching this clip!” are link messages that aren’t easy to ignore. But this type of messaging is used to lure in unsuspecting people, who click on the link that ultimately allows an attacker to install malicious software on their computer. That software, in turn, could give crooks access to personal information, such as bank and credit card account numbers, passwords, etc.
And watch out for short URLs, like the kind you find on Twitter, since the number of characters is limited with that service. If you’re unsure where a shortened URL will take you, don’t follow it. Criminals like to use this approach, too, to attract people to sites that contain malicious software traps. You can also hover over the link until the full URL is displayed in the lower corner of the browser. If the address doesn’t look familiar or it looks suspicious, avoid it.
Questionnaires are questionable
Do you like to take online surveys? Or fill out those quirky personality quizzes? Be careful what you complete. These are more ways to compromise yourself by sharing too much information. And as mentioned earlier, we know where that can lead to.
Beware of data-sharing applications
Think again before giving in to applications that seek permission to share your data. That creates the potential for an unknown party to do things such as post to your wall or access your information. In effect, you lose some control over your social media accounts when you approve these types of applications.
Protect your privacy
It never hurts to check your privacy settings on a regular basis. Choose the most secure options that are available.
Update your browser(s)
Outdated browsers tend to have security flaws, so install the latest versions on your computer.
And update your security software
Old anti-virus and anti-spam software may not be able to withstand the latest and greatest malware that’s out there. So stay on top of installing security patches and consider investing in a new security software suite that includes a firewall and other added protection.
Be cautious of who you befriend
Sure, it’s great to have lots of friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter. But can you be sure that all of them are trustworthy? If someone asks to be your pal and you have no clue who they are, think twice about letting them in your circle. And if someone starts to harass or threaten you, block them and report them immediately to the site administrator.
The bottom line? Always keep in mind that familiar adage, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”