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7 Tips for Staying Safe on Social Media

7 Tips for Staying Safe on Social Media

As more and more of your information goes online, it’s crucial to learn how to protect your identity and sensitive data - especially on social media platforms.
  • As of 2019, 79% of Americans have a social media profile [1]
  • Social media users are expected to reach 2.95 billion by 2020 [2]
7 Tips for Staying Safe on Social Media Infographic
As more and more of your information goes online, it’s crucial to learn how to protect your identity and sensitive virtual data, especially on social media platforms. Your digital data is incredibly valuable.
Companies use the information you post and track your virtual activity to target you with more relevant ads based on what social media pages you follow. Or, cybercriminals may wrongfully access your online information and find out your banking details like your routing and account numbers.
As of 2019, 79% of Americans have a social media profile and social media users are expected to reach 2.95 billion by 2020. With those numbers in mind, it’s incredibly important to take the proper steps to safeguard your information and identity online. As social media grows, so does the potential for others to misuse your data.

Why is it important to protect my data online?

Despite the widespread usage of social media apps and sites, it can be a point of vulnerability for many users and their private data. Social media breaches accounted for over 56% of 4.5 billion data records compromised in the first half of 2018.
Take the time to become familiar with your privacy settings and how to change them to protect yourself. Otherwise, you’re an easy target for hackers.

What are steps I can take to protect myself online?

Don’t panic just yet; there are plenty of ways you can shore up your virtual profiles. While no single step can guarantee you won’t be a victim of a data breach, the following practices are still prudent to make it less likely your data ends up somewhere on the dark web.

1. Adjust your privacy settings

Adjust your privacy settings on all of your social media platforms, especially the big three: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Facebook: Consider making your posts visible to just your friends instead of the general public.
    • Navigate to Settings > “Who can see your future posts?” > Edit > Friends
  • Instagram: Set your account to private to avoid strangers following you.
    • Navigate to Settings > Account Privacy > Turn Private Account on
  • Twitter: Uncheck ‘Discoverability’ boxes in Twitter’s safety and security controls to keep your tweets within your circle of friends and local network.
    • Click ‘Protect your tweets’ if you want to limit your tweets to just your followers.

2. Use two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication can help protect you even if a cybercriminal successfully guesses your password and username. Two-factor or multi-step authentication requires you to log in with your password and username in addition to a code sent through SMS on a registered device.
In most cases, hackers may be able to get in with your password but fail when a code is sent, asking you to approve a recent login.
Several social media platforms have the option to use this function. Here’s how to change those settings on three main social media sites to make sure you have two-factor authentication set up:
  • Facebook: Select the option to get alerts for unrecognized logins.
    • Navigate to Settings > Security and Login
  • Instagram: Enable two-factor authentication.
    • Navigate to Settings > Privacy and Security > Two-Factor Authentication
  • Twitter: Enable login verification.
    • Navigate to Settings and Privacy > Set up login verification

3. Don’t post your whereabouts

Never post your street address or long-term vacation plans because you never know who’s watching. Even seemingly harmless vacation pictures can alert would-be burglars to scope your home.
You should also avoid accidentally revealing your location by disabling location tagging on all of your social media profiles. For both Facebook and Instagram, you can go to “location services” and turn off your location. For Twitter, you need to disable the “Tweet with location’ setting.

4. Don’t use your social media credentials to sign in on third-party sites

Although it takes a few seconds longer, don’t rely on your social media sign-in to log in to other sites. Many sites allow you to set up a new account with your login credentials from social media sites like Google, Facebook, or Twitter. The problem arises when someone accesses your social login data, they’ll have access to those third-party sites by default as well.

5. Be wary of friend requests

Fake social media profiles are prevalent, making up 15-25% of total users. As such, you should only accept friend requests from people you actually know. Check your connections to make sure you’re not already friends with the person trying to send you a request and verify the person’s identity through a second source.

6. Don’t click on shortened URLs

Shortened URLs are often used as vessels for malware because it’s hard to see whether or not the link is suspicious in this form. It’s especially important to avoid clicking on shortened URLs sent by Instagram Direct Message or Facebook Messenger.

7. Be password savvy

81% of company data breaches are due to bad passwords. With that in mind, remember to change up your passwords, and don’t use the same password over and over again. More than one-third of Millennials use fewer than five passwords to protect all of their accounts.
It might be a good idea to write down your passwords in a notebook so you don’t forget them or can easily reference them if you do.

What are the most popular passwords?

Another essential part of keeping your data safe is avoiding easy-to-guess passwords. Here are some of the most popular passwords. If you see one of your passwords on this list, it’s time to change it:
  • 123456
  • 123456789
  • Qwerty
  • Password
  • 111111
  • 12345678
  • ABC123
  • Password1
  • 12345

How do I make a strong password?

Follow these tips for making a secure password that will make it harder for someone to break into your account:
  • Make it long, at least 12 characters
  • Include numbers, symbols, uppercase, and lowercase letters
  • Don’t reuse passwords
  • Use a password manager
  • Change your passwords regularly

Takeaways: shore up your data with these tips and tricks

With these tips, you can make your social media usage more safe, private, and protected. Remember to keep your passwords secret from others and to regularly change them, especially if you know if there have been recent breaches. You may even want to rely on an old-fashioned notebook to physically write down passwords.

Infographic text:

Most popular social media sites in 2019 [3]:
  1. Facebook
  2. Instagram*
  3. Twitter
*owned by Facebook
Despite the widespread usage of social media apps and sites, it can be a point of vulnerability for many users and their private data.
Social media breaches accounted for over 56% of 4.5 billion data records compromised in the first half of 2018 [4].
Take the time to become familiar with your privacy settings and how to change them to best protect yourself online.

Here are 6 tips for staying safe on social media:

1. Adjust your privacy settings

Adjust your privacy settings on all of your social media platforms [5]
  • Facebook: Consider making your posts visible to just your friends instead of the general public
    • Navigate to Settings > “Who can see your future posts?” > Edit > Friends
  • Instagram Set your account to private
    • Navigate to Settings > Account Privacy > Turn Private Account on
  • Twitter
    • Uncheck ‘Discoverability’ boxes in Twitter’s safety and security controls
    • Click ‘Protect your tweets’ if you want to limit your tweets to just your followers

2. Use two-factor authentication

  • Two-factor authentication can help protect you even if your password and username are hacked
  • Two-factor or multi-step authentication: Requires you to log in with your password and username in addition to a code sent through SMS on a registered device [6]
  • Several social media platforms have the option to use this function [7}.
  • Facebook: Select the option to get alerts for unrecognized logins.
    • Navigate to Settings > Security and Login
  • Instagram: Enable two-factor authentication
    • Navigate to Settings > Privacy and Security > Two-Factor Authentication
  • Twitter: Enable login verification
    • Navigate to Settings and Privacy > Set up login verification

3. Don’t post your whereabouts Never post your street address or long-term vacation plans - you never know who’s watching.

Avoid accidentally revealing your location by disabling location tagging.
  • Facebook mobile app: Go to location services in your phone and turn off location services for Facebook app
  • Instagram mobile app: Go to location services in your phone and turn off location services for Instagram app
  • Twitter: Disable “Tweet with location”

4. Don’t use your social media credentials to sign in on third-party sites

a. Many sites allow you to set up a new account with your login credentials from social media sites like Google, Facebook, or Twitter
b. If someone gets access to your social login data, they’ll have access to those third-party sites by default as well

5. Be wary of friend requests

Fake social media profiles are extremely common, making up 15-25% of total users [8]
  1. Only accept friend requests from people you actually know
  2. Check your connections to make sure you’re not already friends with the person trying to send you a request
  3. Verify the person’s identity through a second source

6. Don’t click on shortened URLs.

a. Shortened URLs are often used as vessels for malware [9]
b. Avoid clicking on shortened URLs sent by Instagram Direct Message or Facebook Messenger

7. Be password savvy

a. 81% of company data breaches are due to bad passwords. [10]

  • Don’t use the same password for everything.
    1. 71% of accounts are protected by passwords used for more than one site [11]
    2. More than one-third of Millennials use fewer than five passwords to protect all of their accounts [12]

b. Don’t use an easy-to-guess password.

  • Most popular passwords [13]
    1. 123456
    2. 123456789
    3. Qwerty
    4. Password
    5. 111111
    6. 12345678
    7. Abc123
    8. Password1
    9. 12345
  • How to make a strong password [14]
    1. Make it long, at least 12 characters
    2. Include numbers, symbols, uppercase, and lowercase letters
    3. Don’t reuse passwords
    4. Use a password manager
    5. Change your passwords regularly
With these tips, you can make your social media usage more safe, private, and protected.

Infographic sources:

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