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Be social. Be secure…10 tips for protecting your social media accounts

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About a decade ago, social networking sites such as Orkut, were a new thing. Today, platforms such as Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Telegram, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Snapchat have become internet users’ digital billboards. Whether we use social media as a marketing tool to promote a business or just for fun to connect and share precious moments with family and friends, you will agree that this tool has become a critical part of our everyday life.

However, with all the benefits social networking offers, it is easy to overlook the risks that are involved. Imagine if someone gained access to any of your social media accounts — they could change your account name, password, and recovery data in order to lock you out and take total control. As users openly share data but often fail to follow password hygiene, each year millions of people are becoming the victim of social media accounts hacks. Thus, there is an increasing concern regarding the security as well as privacy. According to a report by Norton, 11% of consumers have deleted a social media account to protect their online privacy.

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Also Read: ‘Human Error’: Beware of this most neglected link in Cybersecurity

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It’s important to know how to manage the security and privacy settings on your accounts, so that your personal information remains inaccessible to anyone but you, and your accounts don’t fall into the wrong hands. When someone hacks your social media account, they are likely to have access to very sensitive information that could be used to steal your identity and send out compromised messages to your connections.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to protect your social media accounts from hackers. Here we go…

  1. Use unique passwords for each social network: This may sound too basic. However, even if it’s the most critical thing every user should follow, most users don’t. Make sure you use a unique as well as strong password for you every social account. Your password must include numbers, upper and lowercase letters, and special characters. The stronger password you use, the harder it is for hackers to crack it. Also, make it a habit to update your password at least once a month. Consider using a password manager tool to simplify your life.
  2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) on all accounts: With 2-Step Verification, you add an extra layer of security to your account in case your password is stolen. While 2FA is not 100 per cent hack-proof, it can prevent misuse of data in case of a breach to a great extent.
  3. Use a unique email for your social media account: If possible, create a whole new email specifically for social media accounts so that if your account is compromised, the hackers won’t have access to any valuable information stored in your personal email account.
  4. Set your accounts to private and review the default privacy settings: Most default privacy settings on social media may permit the sharing of your information with other third-party online users. Adjusting the default privacy settings may limit the amount of information that the social media site can share with other users outside of your knowledge. For instance, both Facebook and Twitter let you create custom lists of people who are allowed to view specific posts.
  5. Always lock your device or log off after use: This practice will help to prevent unauthorised access to your social media accounts.
  6. Keep your social media apps updated: Make sure you have the latest version of the platform you’re using. Applying updates promptly will help protect your devices and accounts from cyber criminals as such updates involve security patches to protect you from the newest known threats.
  7. Know the people you befriend: Only accept friend requests from people you know in real life. Often hackers will send requests so they can see the information you are sharing to help them take advantage of. Further, limit access to only the necessary people. The fewer people with access, the better. This makes it easier to control the reach of the posts and avoid any deliberate sabotage.
  8. Check what apps are connected to your social media: Do you use Facebook or Google to sign in for any other applications? Conduct periodic checks to know which apps are connected to your social media. Assess if this type of access is necessary.
  9. Close the inactive accounts: Forgotten social media accounts may be compromised without being noticed. Hackers can leverage these and access other accounts linked to it, like your email. Take inventory of your social media accounts to see which ones do you really use. Delete the ones you don’t need.
  10. Sharing is not always caring: Think twice before you post anything online, especially photos. Posting photos on social media has been identified as one of the riskiest social networking activities. Advertising your whereabouts through pictures could make you and/or your home an easy target for criminals.

Wrapping up

The internet can be a dangerous place and social media is no exception. As social media evolves, it will continue to be a playground for cybercriminals looking to steal information. However, social media can be relatively safe as long as you’re cognizant of risks and take steps to mitigate them. Following the above-mentioned simple steps, although not exhaustive, will help keep your social media accounts secure and private to a great extent.

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