The popularity of social media networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and the like has exploded over recent years. In fact, according to statistics released this year by the Pew Research Center, in its Social Media Update 2014, at least 52 percent of adults who use the Internet now utilize two or more social media sites. It’s easy to see, as a result, that billions of people around the world make use of online networking sites on a regular basis.
However, while there are plenty of fun benefits of using such sites, there are some issues to be wary of too. The popularity of social media constantly draws the interest of cybercriminals (such as hackers and virus writers), who follow the numbers and target sites with large numbers of visitors. Social media sites with huge traffic numbers can therefore unfortunately be rife with scams and viral infections, so users need to beware. Read on for some top tips to keep you and your family safe when you use online networking websites.
Install Internet Security
One of the first things to do to protect your computers and other devices is to purchase some quality internet security. There are many different options on the market, so make sure you compare carefully to ensure you are getting the maximum protection, and that what you choose is designed to safeguard your device types, whether Android, iOS, or other.
Good security software will include many different features. Look for products which: provide your systems with advanced protection against viruses; ensure your privacy is maintained; guard against identity theft; safeguard your data on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more; and block potentially harmful websites.
The best software will also:
- Improve the performance of your devices
- Block phishing emails
- Limit your children’s access to inappropriate websites and control which apps they can access
- Provide a password manager for your online accounts, and identify data-stealing apps
Beware of Scams
Apart from installing software to help keep you safe on social media, you also need to use sites carefully and knowledgeably. Keep up to date on some of the common scams that cybercriminals use to gather data and hack systems so that you’ll know what to look out for and avoid.
For instance, “clickjacking” is a tactic used regularly on social media sites. Clickjacking is a strategy whereby hackers post a fake yet scandalous, juicy “news” item on sites like Facebook, using a sensational headline to generate interest and get people to click on a link. If unsuspecting users click through, they’ll often find themselves redirected to a link that has malicious code embedded in it.
This code misleads a social network into thinking that you have “liked”, “favorited” or otherwise shared or enjoyed the story. This then leads the social media firm to show that link to your friends online, and the process repeats on and on. The point of this tactic is to generate as many clicks as possible for a scam so that it increases advertising revenue. To avoid being taken in by such misrepresentations, maintain a healthy level of scepticism when you read content that appears sensational or particularly strange.
Another common scam these days is something known as “pharming.” This is a phishing attack that involves scammers presenting social media users with links to familiar websites (such as popular blogs and other digital publications). If you decide to click on these types of links, you’ll actually be taken not to the real website, but to a fake version.
On this spoofed site, you’ll be prompted to enter login information to your social media account or provide some other type of personal information. If you enter your data, thinking it’s a real site, you’ll actually end up providing criminals with your personal data and give them the ability to hijack your accounts.
To prevent this happening, it pays to always directly type in the name of a site you want to visit into the address bar, rather than getting there through a link. As well, anytime you’re using social media sites, beware of other potential issues such as hidden charges, requests for money, and “friend” requests from people you don’t know personally or have never heard of.
Be Mindful About Personal Information
Cybercriminals also use social media sites to mine for sensitive data, by trawling through personal information that you post online. Many people don’t think about what they post before they hit enter, and this can lead to unexpected issues down the track.
Keep in mind that hackers can break into your financial and other accounts by guessing your passwords from information listed online. To counter this, beware of making public data about your birthday, the names of your children or pets, your mother’s maiden name, your home town, lucky numbers and so on. Keep thieves at bay by customizing your privacy settings so that only people you know well can access your posts, and make sure you use good passwords on your social media sites and elsewhere that can’t be easily deduced.