As Twitter grows in popularity, like Facebook it begins to resemble almost an internet within the internet. Indeed, if Facebook is the second internet, there’s a strong argument that Twitter, even with its relatively slight 25 million users, is the third.
With all the good that comparison brings, it also means a lot of the less savoury elements of the web arrive in abundance, too.
Here are five tips (and the now-compulsory bonus) to help you stay safe on Twitter.
- Regularly change your password, particularly during any kind of phishing or XSS exploit. You don’t have to be paranoid, but use your common sense. If there’s any potential Â risk to your password at all, why not just change it?
- Consider using a URL expander (or software where it comes built-in) before clicking on a shortened link. Most shortened URLs are perfectly safe, but a certain percentage are going to lead you to places you don’t want to go, and might be harmful to your computer. Again: common sense prevails. Do you know the user who shared the link? Do you trust them? Is this the kind of content they typically share?
- Be mindful of the things you say, as anybody could be reading. Who’s the worst person in the world that you can think of that might be reading your tweets? Your boss? Your mother? Your fiancÃ©e? If you always write with them in mind, you’re unlikely to go too far off course.
- If you post under an alias, considering reserving your real name for future use and to protect from identity fraud. You never know when you might hit it big. Even if you think there’s no chance whatsoever, it costs you nothing and takes less than five minutes. Why not do it?
- Take responsibility and make sure you’ve authorised all external connections to your account. If something is tweeting on your behalf, most of the time it’s because you ticked a box somewhere. Find that connection, and remove it.
BONUS: This is more of a request, actually – petition Twitter to let us backup our accounts. Currently, there’s no way to do this, which means if something happens to your profile there’s a risk you could lose everything. What if you get hacked, and the exploiter decides to delete everything you’ve ever written, unfollow all your friends, and generally run rampant? Sure, you can start over, but lots of us have a genuine history on the network. All those connections, and all that metadata, could be lost. There are various services that let you save your data offline, but there’s no way to get that back on to Twitter. And the only way I see that happening is if Twitter takes responsibility and provides us with this service.
I’ve made this point a couple of times but it’s worth saying again just in case it didn’t take – there’s no need to be paranoid about using social media. But it absolutely pays to be smart about it, too. And by following the guidelines above you can significantly improve the chances that your Twitter experience is always a good one.