We have become inseparable from social media over the last decade, with the number of social media users growing dramatically.
Statistics suggest that more than 2.77 billion people have accounts on multiple social media platforms, making them ideal for cybercriminals.
With a massive collection of private data, social media platforms should guarantee privacy and security.
In 2019, news regarding the storage and non-encryption of numerous user account passwords by Facebook broke out.
The lack of encryption meant that in-house employees could view the passwords, which left many users worried.
Many people experience identity theft and data breaches annually, which results in untold stress and loss of crucial personal information.
Such instances happen when users do not enhance the security of their accounts on social media.
Leaving your privacy needs to social platforms compromises your security. While online safety can be difficult, users can adopt a few measures to enhance their privacy and security.
Read on to understand some of the privacy risks on social media and what users can do to improve their privacy and safety online.
Privacy concerns on social media
Be on the lookout for the following privacy risks when using social media platforms.
● Impersonation and hacking of accounts
Today, cybercriminals are attacking social networks more than ever before. A weak social media account makes it an easy target.
Hacking into your accounts on social media allows them to access all your personal data and even speak and act on your behalf.
Cybercriminals target accounts on social media because they are more effective malware and virus spreading tools than standard email spam.
Users are highly likely to trust and click on links they receive from their friends on social media without a second thought. Often, such actions result in computer infections.
Apart from infecting your computer with malware, cyber attackers can leverage your social media account for identity theft.
Remember, your accounts contain personal data, which they can use to exploit your digital identity or even register credit cards using your name.
● Harassment and stalking
Threats on your social media account can emanate from the people close to you.
Cyberbullying and stalking is a common threat today that perpetrators can execute on social media platforms.
Often, victims of broken relationships are shocked to find their private messages posted across social media platforms.
Some people will even change your password and bar the users from accessing your account.
Before you can salvage your account, the damage will be done, and the world will have access to your private information.
Such an experience can be horrific on different levels. Remember, cybercriminals do not need your password to access your account. They can easily guess the password or even hack them.
● Being forced to surrender your passwords
Today, some potential employers use social media as part of their interview process.
Often, they will ask job applicants to surrender their social media account login details to keep a tab on the information they are sharing.
Efforts have been in place to prevent organizations from demanding such information.
For example, up to 39 state bills regarding this practice were released in 2016, many of which have not succeeded.
As more social media users share information on their platforms, they need enhanced privacy and security controls.
The possibility of a privacy breach and abuse increases when an employer has access to their employee’s accounts on social media.
● Creating a balance between privacy intrusion and effective marketing
Social media companies are striving to balance privacy intrusion and proper marketing.
However, there are contradictory interests in fulfilling their social media user’s needs and their paying advertising clients.
Matching these two groups’ needs can be difficult, even in the absence of financial motivation.
Due to this, there will be an increase in privacy intrusion and information collecting attempts to facilitate targeted marketing.
It is worth mentioning that many advertisers invest hundreds of millions of dollars in social media ads.
With such a considerable investment, advertisers will be compelled to execute accurate user targeting.
However, this approach comes with a downside, with some platforms like Facebook battling criticism due to its ad targeting algorithm.
Experts say the algorithm was discriminating against a specific group of people illegally.
● The effects of region-based services
Many social media users access their accounts through their smartphones.
The idea of leveraging region-based services and mobile gadgets increases the potential for security and privacy threats.
Often, many smartphones collect region data automatically without the user’s knowledge, with social media applications being the highest consumers of the data.
Without proper privacy laws and legislation, social media platforms have the liberty to use this data based on their preferences.
Cases of cybercriminals and stalkers targeting social media users due to region-based information from their social media applications are rising.
What then can users do to reclaim their privacy and security on social media? Here are critical tips to keep in mind.
● Use a powerful password or a password manager
Nearly every social media user has multiple accounts to facilitate the execution of different goals.
Some people use the same password on all their accounts, while others choose a weak password.
Doing so compromises the security of your account, making it an easy target for cyberattacks.
Use a strong and unique password for your different accounts on social media. Include words, numbers, special characters, and lower- and upper-case letters.
The stronger your password is, the harder it will be for hackers to guess it. A password manager can come in handy to help users manage their passwords.
● Change passwords regularly
Change passwords for business and personal accounts on social media as frequently as possible and when employees resign from the organization.
Taryn Canedo, the social media account manager at Ignite, expresses that they would immediately change passwords when employees leave the company to prevent them from disrupting their pages.
After changing a password, give your entire team the new secret key but do not send it via email.
A secure way for business accounts is to use a password manager for your team members to share passwords and account information.
The software encrypts your credentials and allows you to share them securely with authorized parties.
● Check page roles and regulate the people who can access business accounts on social media
Knowing the employees who have access to the company’s accounts on social media is crucial. Check your account regularly to make sure that only the assigned roles have access.
Designate people who should be familiar with the password. Let two or more people beware of the password. Giving the password to one person only can be risky; especially if they resign.
Most social media platforms allow you to add admins or managers to the same business profile. This way, you can protect your page’s information but allow other employees access to the profile through their own account.
● Keep your private data offline
According to Katie Campbell, “People often forget how easy it is to let your username, email, and password slip up on the internet.”
To keep your data off the online space, Katie advises users to always sign out of their accounts when they are not using them.
Deactivate any application permissions after using and never copy and paste your password.
● Have an exclusive email address for managing social media
Using this strategy denies hackers access to sensitive and crucial data. However, adopting advanced internet security tools and practices will also come in handy.
● Adopt two-factor verification for all your accounts on social media
Two-factor verification enhances the security of your accounts on social media.
If someone attempts to log in to your account from a new browser, gadget, or location, you will receive a new password that you should enter to complete the login process.
To some users, this process is time-consuming but necessary to boost your accounts’ security and privacy.
● Update your security and privacy settings
While different social media platforms allow users to limit their audience, many people do not understand why it is critical. Every social media user should evaluate, test, and outline these settings. Users can also create security questions for their accounts. Avoid setting common questions and instead choose difficult ones that hackers can hardly guess.
● Choose content carefully
Personal data like phone numbers, email addresses, and social security numbers are invaluable to data mining organizations and hackers.
Avoid sharing crucial data online. Peruse through your profiles on social media and maintain as little information as possible.
Remember, anybody who needs your essential data already has it or knows how they can get it.
● Use a VPN
Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is one of the most effective methods of securing messages, conversations, and hiding your IP address from online stalkers.
A VPN is an encryption tool that helps internet users encode and protect their communication. When you use a VPN, all your data goes through a secure tunnel between your device and the internet.
It is a popular tool among internet users who value their security and privacy.
Once their traffic is encrypted, they are free from spying eyes. Even your ISP would not have access to your traffic and data.
● Be cautious when using a wireless network
Be extra careful when accessing your accounts on social media through wireless connections.
Public wireless connections in libraries, restaurants, shopping malls, and airports hardly offer adequate security for your accounts on social media.
Cyber attackers can easily acquire passwords and crucial information through these wireless networks.
● Protect social profiles on mobile gadgets
To make the login process easy, many social media account users have not activated two-factor verification on mobile gadgets.
While you do not need to enter your password when you log into your account, you should use a powerful password for your mobile device.
Doing so prevents unapproved access to your accounts on social media.
Consider using fingerprint scanning and facial recognition to enhance the security of your mobile gadgets. Disable sensitive information and lock-screen notifications from the lock screen.
● Maintain an updated antivirus in your system
Update your system with the latest antivirus. Before using any internet-connected computer, install an up-to-date antivirus and anti-malware software.
Choose from the numerous unpaid and paid antivirus software versions available. Install antivirus applications on your mobile gadgets to protect your crucial data and online activities.
● Validate friend requests and block imposter accounts
There are numerous fake profiles on different social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
These fake accounts can be malicious organizations, hackers, or people who want to track your activities.
Never accept friend requests from unverified user accounts. Block and report suspicious user accounts.
● Assess your mailbox regularly for unusual login attempts
Peruse through your inbox regularly. While many social media users ignore messages in their accounts on social media, checking can help identify suspicious login attempts.
If you receive an unusual login attempt or email, consider changing your password immediately.
● Ensure your browser or app is updated
Use updated browsers for an excellent browsing experience and avoid saving your passwords on the browser as much as possible.
Remember, if the system is compromised cybercriminals can access saved passwords from your browser with ease.
Updating your apps regularly is also important since developers often provide security patches in their updates.
● Adopt a policy to secure company accounts on social media
Every company needs robust policies with clear-cut requirements and steps on the best way to protect accounts on social media.
Have clear rules stating the people who can access the accounts on social media and how to avoid security risks.
The policy should include information on people to inform when accounts on social media are compromised.
Invest in privacy and security tools that monitor and maintain the safety of your social accounts.
Software programs notify users of any issues with their accounts on social media, like impersonation and posts from malicious links.
Use these tips to secure accounts on social media and enhance your privacy.