Social media is used by many people to connect, share information and even work. On social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google+, users create accounts that they use for various purposes. Unfortunately, no matter how careful or aware you are of your identity on the internet, there always exists the possibility of a hacker gaining access to your personal information. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself when browsing social media.
Use A VPN
A virtual private network, or VPN, is a secure way to browse the internet anonymously. The VPN creates an encrypted connection between your device and the server you are connected to. This allows you to keep your information hidden when using public wi-fi networks, which are common in libraries, coffee shops, and airports.
Use Unique Passwords
When it comes to social media passwords, you should never use the same one twice. This means that your Facebook and your Twitter account shouldn’t be using the same password. When choosing a password for a social media site, you should make sure your passwords are strong—something that includes numbers, symbols, and capital letters. Password managers can be very helpful in this instance. They allow you to create complex passwords for all your accounts and even generate random passwords for you so it’s next to impossible for you to forget them.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication
When logging into a site or service, many sites and services offer two-factor authentication (2FA) as additional protection against malicious cyber activities. This method requires users to verify their identity using something they know (password) and something they have (a unique code sent to their device). Sites like Facebook, Instagram, Google, Dropbox, and Twitter offer 2FA on accounts.
Use Public Wi-Fi Sparingly
Public Wi-Fi can be a great way to access the internet when you’re on the go. Hotels, airports, and restaurants all offer this service, but hackers set up shop in these places as well—especially if it’s a spot frequented by many people. By setting up a honeypot, the hacker has an easier time getting your personal information. So, you should never do anything that is considered private on public Wi-Fi. Sending sensitive information like passwords and account numbers can be a big mistake if you’re not using a secure connection. To know if you’re on a secured network, the network should have an HTTPS prefix rather than just HTTP.
Learn About Vishing And Smishing
Vishing (voice phishing) is a phone scam that tricks you into sending personal information like usernames, passwords, and bank account numbers. Smishing (SMS phishing) is a text message similar to vishing that tricks you into giving up personal information like your name, address, Social Security number, and other sensitive details.
Use a Secure Browsing Mode
When you’re surfing the internet, especially on a public connection, there are some things that might get in the way of your privacy. Pop-up ads and cookies can track your surfing habits and sometimes even passwords. This is where private browsing mode comes in handy. When you use a secure browsing mode, it blocks all these things from following you around the internet and tracking your every move online. To use this feature, simply head to your browser’s settings and find the option for private or incognito browsing.
Don’t Click Suspicious Links
Hackers know that people love sharing interesting links with their Facebook friends and Twitter followers, so they will create fake sites that look like real popular websites. These sites might ask you to enter your login information or download malicious software. If you receive a link like this, don’t click it! A great way to avoid this is to only visit sites that are linked from trusted sources or websites. You can also use website authentication apps like ShieldSquare to tell if the site is fake or not.
Use Privacy Settings
All social media sites have privacy settings that allow you to choose who can see your account, what gets posted on your timeline, and even which individual posts are viewable by the public. If you go into these settings, it prevents strangers from being able to post or search for whatever they want on your profile.
On Twitter, you can do this by clicking on your profile picture in the top right-hand corner and clicking “Settings & Privacy.” For Facebook, you can click on the small arrow in the top right corner of any page (for desktop users), then click “Privacy Settings,” which is found under “See More” or in the drop-down menu that appears when you click on your profile picture. On Instagram, click on your profile picture in the upper-right hand corner and then go to “Options,” which you will find under “More.” From there, choose “Privacy” from the list of options.
Disable Autoplay Videos
Autoplay videos are when a video automatically plays on your screen when it appears in your feed, usually with a sound that you can’t control. You should turn autoplay off to avoid any malware or viruses from starting without your knowledge. To disable this feature for Facebook, go into settings and look going into the settings and find the option to make your profile “protected.” Go into your Facebook privacy settings by clicking on the drop-down arrow in the top right corner of your account. Then choose “settings” and find the blocked section under applications and websites. From there, click on “Edit your settings” and you will find the option to turn off autoplay.
To disable autoplay for Twitter, go into your profile settings by clicking on your name in the top left-hand corner of your screen (on desktop) or tapping your profile picture (on mobile). From there, click on “settings and privacy” and find the option to check or uncheck “autoplay videos,” which is in a section called Video Autoplay.
Instagram doesn’t have autoplay, so you don’t have to do anything.
Browsing on social media sites is fun, but you should always be wary of what you’re sharing and how it might be used against you. It’s hard to avoid all spam, viruses, and hacked accounts when using the internet, but with some extra help, like private browsing modes, VPN, or security apps, you can keep yourself secure while having fun!
About the Author
James Boeing has an M.E. in Information Security. His broad research interest includes Information and Cyber Security, SNS, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Forensic, IoT.