Social media is hotter than ever right now, and it’s not showing any signs of going away either. Don’t believe us?
In 2008, Reuters announced that social media sites had overtaken porn as the number one Internet search. Since April 2010, Twitter has gained forty million users, and Facebook reached its 500 million member marker this past July. And 57% of Internet users visited a social networking site in 2010.
Unfortunately, our increased access to others across the Web also means increased risk of exploitation. Here are a few tips for social media security that social networking fiends should probably take advantage of:
Be Careful With Applications
They’re everywhere (especially on Facebook): games, music, dining, book, film apps, location apps and they’re certainly tempting. But just because someone sends you an invitation to participate in an app doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Remember that accepting an app gives third-party developers access to your personal information. You can scan Facebook’s list of applications for reviews, tips, and warnings about applications that might generate spam in your account.
You don’t talk to strangers, so why are you inviting them to stalk you on Facebook or Twitter? Anytime you get a request for a friend or follower that you haven’t met or that you aren’t familiar with, you might be dealing with a spammer. Don’t engage with this person at all, — after all, if you respond to a message, even just out of curiosity, the stranger can still view your profile for a month. Better to ignore completely.
Limit Your Information
It might seem obvious, but it never hurts to re-emphasize the importance of personal discreetness online. Personal addresses, financial information, phone numbers, and other sensitive information should never be revealed on a public profile (or written on walls, tweeted, or even privately messaged). And while Twitter and Facebook location trackers are all the rage right now, think twice about broadcasting that information — you never know who is waiting for you to leave your home.
Secure Your Networking
It seems like every other day Facebook is under fire for privacy violations. But they might have done something right this time around.
Banking sites, shopping sites, and other Websites that require you to input sensitive information typically maintain a secure connection. Facebook recently announced that an option to use an encryption tool — the “HTTPS” protocol used on these secure banking sites — would be widely available to its members.
You can enable this option in the “Account Security” section of the “Account Settings” page. It should allow you to experience Facebook entirely securely — so you can rest assured that your profile won’t be hijacked by hackers with malicious intentions.
Other Facebook tips? Remove yourself from “Facebook Search,” edit your photo albums so that only certain people can see them, and limit your address, phone number, and e-mail address to close friends. (This is also possible under Facebook’s “Account Security” settings).
If you’re on Twitter, “protect” your tweets so that only friends — not spammers, marketers, or hackers — can see them.
Secure Your Password
Secure your password. Secure your password. Secure your password. It really can’t be stressed enough. A weak password is an open invitation for profile-jacking, so make sure to use a fairly complicated one. Make it long, add symbols, alternate upper and lowercase letters, insert numbers, etc. Whatever you do, don‘t use the same password across social networking passwords. If your data was hacked into once, it will be hacked into again.
Don’t Be Click-Happy
Social networking sites are full of buttons, flashing graphics, moving text, and, of course, links. Remember that what might look like an innocuous advertisement could lead to malware or a dangerous Web virus. And a shortened “bit.ly” URL obscures the link’s source, which makes it difficult to determine its content.