Three Social Media Habits to Implement Today
Last updated: August 15, 2018
From thoughts to articles to updates to photos to locations to…well, just about anything…very few day-to-day activities are considered “off limits” as far as social sharing goes. And whether you agree or disagree with the fact that previously personal moments are spotlighted in the social sphere, the fact remains that you (and your family members and your friends) are likely to be impacted by this shift in some way or another.
Though it’s easy to focus on the positive aspects of connecting online, there are plenty of hazards associated with these very public platforms. To reign in your risk, adopt the following three habits (and encourage others to do the same):
Tip #1: Regularly Review Your Privacy Settings
If you’ve never checked the privacy settings on your social media accounts, there’s no time like the present. (And if you have younger kids who are on social media, check theirs while you’re at it.) Though some platforms — like Twitter and LinkedIn — have a more public form and function, other platforms — like Facebook and Instagram — tend to thrive on personal connections. It’s critical that you understand how data privacy works within each of your social networks and that you choose your account settings appropriately.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t assume standard privacy safeguards are strong enough. Many applications default to lower privacy settings in order to make your profile and posts easy to find and engage with.
- Social engineers and cybercriminals mine social networks for personal and business information. When you share data publicly, be aware that scammers can use those details against you to make emails, phone calls, and other messages more believable.
- Online privacy policies and settings change over time. It’s a good idea to regularly check your settings, particularly following an update to a social media application you use.
Tip #2: Assume Everything You Post Is Public
This may seem in direct contrast to the first point, but such is the double-edged sword of social networking. The simple reality is that data privacy settings can only protect you to a point. The reason we suggest adopting this habit is simple: When you share something with someone, that something is no longer in your control.
Think of social media posts like text messages: Once you send a text to someone, what’s to stop that person from forwarding the message on to others? What prevents those people from taking a screen shot of that message and posting it on their social feeds? And what if the people who see those posts share them with their connections? It’s easy to see that even if a text message is intended to be a private exchange between you and the recipient, there’s no guarantee once you hit send.
The same principles apply to social media. Deleted posts aren’t necessarily gone. "Private" messages won't necessarily remain private. And posts you think will “self-destruct” after a few seconds on a platform like Snapchat will not necessarily disappear.
We have seen these realities play out in the media countless times, with deleted “controversial” tweets living on in screen captures. With more and more recruiters and admissions officers checking the social media accounts of applicants, it’s to your advantage to assume that everything you post could travel well beyond the confines you believe you’ve set.
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Tip #3: Ask Questions
Scammers and cybercriminals love social networks; they are treasure troves of information and it’s incredibly easy to pretend to be someone or something you aren’t within these networks. These types of cons are often referred to as "social engineering," and the dangers associated with imposters and fraudsters are real. There are financial threats, reputations at stake, and even risks to personal safety.
So, before you click a link, accept a connection request, or download a file, take a moment to think about the implications if the person on the other end has a malicious intent. These are the sorts of questions to ask yourself:
Do I personally know this individual and/or trust this connection?
The safest rule of thumb on social media (and a great piece of advice for minors) is to refuse connections from anyone you haven’t met personally. That isn’t always possible (particularly on Twitter), but it always makes sense to think about who you are connecting with and what they are seeing from you. Most privacy settings focus on protecting your data from the prying eyes of those outside your accepted circle of connections. All bets are off with those who have been granted access.
Am I already connected to this person?
Social media accounts are frequently the target of imposters, particularly Facebook accounts. We’ve personally seen cases where friends’ accounts were duplicated, and you probably have too. Before you connect a second time, double check with your friend to see what’s going on.
Does this seem legitimate?
From promises of free gift cards and access to premium content, to teasers about sensational stories and the latest celebrity gossip, there is a lot of click bait out there. Scammers create fake profiles and business pages (a practice known as "pretexting") and use known brand names, incredible offers, and dramatic headlines to lure you in. Steer clear of too-good-to-be-true traps. (And don’t be the one who shares the scammers’ links for them!)
Also take notice if a friend suddenly starts posting odd things (like multiple ads for free sunglasses) or randomly asks you for money. Social media accounts are hacked regularly, and the hackers often blast out posts and messages looking for a quick score. If you suspect an account has been breached, reach out to your friend through another trusted channel or report the account.
Do I know for sure this link/file is safe?
Malicious links and ads are everywhere online, and they frequently find homes on social media. Shortened URLs — which reduce length (often to help with character count restrictions) — are particularly risky because they eliminate visibility into where links actually lead.
Seemingly innocent links can get you into a lot of hot water. Bottom line: Confirm before you click. If something seems off, avoid it. You should be as cautious on social media as you are with emails.
Am I teaching my kids to police themselves?
If you have children, it’s always a good idea to check in on what they’re doing online and the connections they are making. But it’s an equally good idea to be proactive about social media safety. Teach them how to apply these best practices themselves — and instruct them to ask questions if they are unsure about something.
Because our human tendency is to be trusting and open, it’s important we all learn how to balance social sharing and safe sharing. Online safety can feel like a moving target, but these social media tips, which offer relatively basic precautions, can drastically improve your level of cybersecurity.