Social media sites are incredibly popular and are growing more so every day. As more and more people flood to use them, the general opinion becomes one of safety and security. If millions of people use Facebook, it has to be secure, right? In reality, Facebook — just like any other website — has its share of security issues. Some of them are technical, while others are behavioral. Thankfully, you can secure your account and your identity with a few easy habits.
These are the tips you need to know when you’re using a website. They are steps you can take to secure your presence on any given website, using that site’s security settings.
1. Set your Privacy Settings
Every social media site has settings to control what you share and who can see it. Take advantage of these settings to lock your account down. Allow friends to see your information, but set aside a user group or two for accounts you would rather quarantine. Lock out people who aren’t directly connected to your account.
2. Be Cautious with Links
In the world of Twitter and short-form blog posting, lengthy URLS are often hidden behind URL shorteners. Instead of seeing www.thisisalongdomainname.com, you’ll see something like www.bit.ly/#####. You have no way of knowing what is behind that link until you click it — unless you use a service like unshorten.com. Only click links from sources you trust.
3. Lock Down Apps
Facebook and other sites are allowing the use of installed apps — games, giveaways and promotions mostly — and encourage users to install them. Before you install an app, read what information it tries to harvest. More importantly, lock that app down so it can only access the minimum it needs. The last thing you want is a malicious app stealing your information.
Sometimes, attacks come from a different angle. Viral infections, trojans and keyloggers on your computer can compromise your social media security. Follow these tips to secure your computer.
1. Regular Virus Scans
Every computer should have an antivirus program installed, no matter what you use it for or what operating system you run. Setting up a scheduled scan allows you to make sure your computer is always free of viruses or worms. You should also have a firewall up and running for an additional layer of protection.
2. Use HTTPS
HTTPS is a secure version of the standard Internet protocol. Many sites allow you to use HTTPS but do not have it set as a default. You can install a browser extension to force any website to use HTTPS when it can, which makes your traffic encrypted and much harder to snoop.
3. Be Careful with Installs
Never install a program you don’t trust. Avoid installing bundled software with essential plugins. Never download attachments from email messages unless you trust the sender, and even then scan them with your virus scanner first.
Good habits are the key to fighting off social engineering. Today, encrypted passwords are so secure that hackers find it easier simply to ask for your password. You might be surprised how often it’s given to them.
1. Limit what you Post
Remember that when you post something online, it is there forever. You may be able to delete the original post, but it might be archived online in some form or another. Never post information you are not okay with everyone knowing. This goes for simply things like your work schedule or announcing your vacations — you never know if a local thief is looking for a home invasion.
2. Don’t Share Passwords
Never give your password for any account to anyone else. At the same time, avoid using the same password across multiple sites. If remembering a dozen passwords is difficult, use a password manager application to store and use them. This way if one of your accounts is compromised, your other accounts are still safe.
3. Don’t Automatically Trust Strangers
If someone approaches you claiming to be a member of the website staff, be skeptical. It might be legitimate, but it might be a scam waiting to happen. Never give your username, password or sensitive information to anyone online, no matter who they claim to be. Website staff members have access to your account through administration tools; they do not need your password.
There you have it. As long as you’re taking the appropriate amount of care online, you can greatly reduce the risk of your account being compromised or your identity being stolen. Nothing is one hundred percent secure — not if it interacts with other people in any ways — but making yourself difficult to hack is the best practice. After all, hackers don’t want to waste time cracking a difficult account when they can compromise 100 unsecured accounts instead.
Contributor: Sara Dawkins
Sara is an active nanny as well as an active freelance writer. She is a frequent contributor of http://www.nannypro.com/.