5 Threats To Your Security When Using Social Media

Social networking has changed the way we interact with friends and associates. While social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, FourSquare, and Google+, play a significant role in our lives, they are also a high risk for security threats.

With hundreds of millions of users online, these tools not only attract friends and family wanting to stay in touch, but they also attract people wanting to know about you for the wrong reasons. Be aware of the top five security threats currently out there to help you stay safe online.

1. Having Your Identity Stolen

Identity thieves gather personal information from social media sites. Even if you have your account on the highest security settings, there are still ways for an identity thief to get your information. Most social network sites have information that is required, such as email address or birthday. It’s common for an identity thief to hack an email account by using social information. For example, a common technique to get personal information is by clicking on “forgot password” and trying to recover the information through email. Once the thief has access to your email account, they then have access to all information on your social networking sites.

So what can you do to protect yourself? You don’t have to delete all your social profiles or hide from the real world; just take these precautions.

  • Have a strong password. The stronger your password, the harder it is to guess. Use special characters like symbols and capital letters when creating your password. Also, don’t use “common” passwords, like your birthday or your child’s name.
  • Be careful with your status updates. Often, we innocently post status updates that would give an identity thief information they need to steal our identity. For example, you may post “Happy birthday to my mother!” and then tag her in the post. Likely, your mother’s maiden name will be associated with that tag now. A popular security question is “What is your mother’s maiden name?” and if you share that online, you run the risks of identity thieves getting the answer to this commonly used question.
  • Don’t reveal your location. You can use a fake location or make one up from another city and state. You may even be able to leave this information blank. Be cautious and never use a city and state where you live.

2. Getting Your Computer Or Social Profile Hacked

Hackers love social networking, going right to the source to interject malicious code. The codes hackers use can steal your identity, inject viruses to your computer, and obstruct bank account information, to name a few. Shortened URLs, such as those created on bit.ly, are especially susceptible to hackers. Shortened URLs can trick users into visiting harmful sites where personal information can be compromised because the full URL is not seen.

The best advice is to never click on a link until you are sure of the source. To tell if a link is safe, you can:

  • Hover over the link. If you hover over a link without clicking, you’ll see the full URL in the lower corner of your browser. If this is a website you recognize, go ahead and click.
  • Try a link scanner. A link scanner is a website that lets you enter the URL of a link you suspect might be suspicious to check for safety. Try URLVoid or MyWOT as possible options.
  • Check shortened links. A shortened link is popular on sites like Twitter where character length matters. Some shortened link sites include bit.ly, Ow.ly, and TinyURL. Use a service like Sucuri to determine if the real link is secure.

3. Inadvertently Letting Stalkers Find You

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