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10 Key Tips for Social Media Security

12 Jun

The hacking of mass accounts on a social network is something that seems to be happening a great deal recently, with LinkedIn being the latest victim, after having 6.5m of its users passwords stolen. Prior to LinkedIn, Twitter suffered a similar hack, and Facebook way did too.

Social media profiles have become the target of social media hackers who use that data to further spread their maliciousness or gain access to your more sensitive data. It is always worth remembering that you can become a victim at any time. Not a day goes by when we don’t hear about a new hack, and with 55,000 new pieces of malware generated a day, security never sleeps.

With the latest security threat to LinkedIn fresh in our minds, here are 10 key social media security tips.

1. Think before you post! Status updates, photos, and comments can end up revealing more about you than you intended to disclose, and you could end up feeling like some silly politician as you struggle to explain yourself.

2. Think twice about allowing applications that request permission to access your data. You will be allowing an unknown party to send you email, post to your wall, and access your information at any time, regardless of whether you’re using the application. Before you decide if you want to allow the application access, make sure you know exactly what the application is!

3. Don’t click on short links that don’t clearly show the link location. With URL shorteners like (and many more) are becoming increasingly common, it’s easy to forget that such URL’s can also be used by criminals to dupe you. Criminals often post phony links that claim to show you who has been viewing your profile. If you’re unsure about a link, you can test unknown links at SiteAdvisor by simply pasting the link into the “View a Site Report” form on the right-hand side of the page. Alternatively, if you use Hootsuite, you can see the extended URL or a shortened link by simply clicking the ‘+’ sign next to the shortened URL.

4. Beware of posts with subjects along the lines of, “LOL! Look at the video I found of you online!” When you click the link, you often get a message saying that you need to upgrade your video player in order to see the clip, but when you attempt to download the “upgrade,” the malicious page will instead install malware that tracks and steals your data.

5. Geolocation apps such as Foursquare share your exact location, which can also let criminals know that you aren’t home, so reconsider broadcasting exactly where you are. Remember, apps like Foursquare still allow you to gain check-in points without having to disclose your location on your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

6. Always use an up-to-date browser. Older browsers tend to have more security flaws, and it is very simple and quick to update your browser to the latest version.

7. Choose unique logins and passwords for each of the websites you use. Yes, it’s a bit of a hassle to have different passwords for EVERY site you use, but it’s the best way to limit your exposure if (and probably when) a particular site you use gets hacked. I’m a big fan of password managers, which can create and store secure passwords for you.

8. Check the domain of the website to be sure that you’re logging into a legitimate website. So if you’re visiting a Facebook page from a link in an email, make sure the URL of the site is actually ‘’ and not a site which looks like Facebook. Hackers often duplicate websites with the exact same design, and once you log into their fake site, they have your real login and password within seconds. This principle also applies to online banking websites, so be extra careful!

9. Be cautious of any message, post, or link you find on a social network that looks at all suspicious or requires to login again once you’re already logged in.

10. Make sure your security suite is up to date and includes antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-spam, a firewall, and a website safety advisor.

BONUS TIP: Take the time to understand your privacy settings! Select the most secure options and check periodically for changes that can open up your profile to the public. Facebook is renowned for continually changing its layout and one such change could result in information that was once private, now being public!

Have you ever had in social media security issues? Or do you have any additional tips? I’d love to hear from you!


Social Media Oversharing: Why People Do It, Its Implications, and How To Prevent It

15 Feb

Social media is an outstanding tool when you want to communicate and spread the good word about anything, whether it be personal or about your business. Unfortunately, it can also be a platform which opens you and/or your business up to a plethora of potential security and reputation problems. There are plenty of incidents of people losing their jobs, business clients and relationships as a result of posting comments or pictures on different social networks.

Why Do People Do Overshare?

Several researchers have shown that heightened emotions drive people to share information. One such piece of research was conducted by Jonah Berger, Assistant Professor in Marketing at the University of Pennsylvania, in 2011, which concluded that people primarily overshare and pass on information because of their emotional state at the time of posting the information. The research paper analysed social media oversharing with a focus on Facebook, and whilst oversharing on Facebook is usually only content which can be seen by your friends (as long as you have adjusted your privacy settings properly), Twitter is not the same, as anybody can see your updates, without having to follow you and without even having a Twitter account! (To read Jonah’s research paper, click here).

When sharing information on social networks, it’s vital to be fully conscious of the implications and potential risks it can involve. It’s extremely important to be aware of privacy settings, to control the reach your messages might have across the web. What you decide to share on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks is a personal choice and as a result, different people have different ideas over what constitutes oversharing. Nevertheless, be mindful that you have to be willing to live with the consequences.

A study by Retrovo, asked people if they had ever posted on anything online about themselves that they regretted. This graph shows the results, which speak volumes.

Examples of Oversharing

  • Posting your complete date of birth
  • Announcing vacations or when you’re away from home
  • Sharing hate messages
  • Posting your every move including what you had for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Sharing pictures of inappropriate situations such as being intoxicated, showing too much “skin”, being with people or places you shouldn’t be, etc.
  • Posting your home phone number or address
  • Sharing your family battles including marital arguments
  • Posting about your financial situation
  • Sharing every little accomplishment your children have achieved
  • Posting the same content over and over 50 times per day
  • Posting personal information or pictures about your friends and family

A lot of the above examples may seem like obvious things not to share on social networks, but go through them again one more time, and ask yourself how many of them you may have seen on somebody’s profile in the past, or even on your own profile. What could happen as a result of publishing some of this information on a social network?

The Consequences Of Oversharing

Well, where do I start? Here’s a list of a few ways in which you could suffer from oversharing on social networks.

REPUTATION – To quote Warren Buffett, “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and only five minutes to ruin it”, and with the rise of social media it feels like it could take a lot less than than five minutes to potentially damage your online reputation. People often base their opinion of your or your business on what they see and read online, even if they might not know you personally. If you care about your personal and professional reputation, try not to cross the line of privacy and watch what you share and how people might perceive it. Remember that the way people may perceive you is the way they will perceive also your business and/or employer if your account outlines that you work for them.

GETTING CAUGHT RED-HANDED – Government departments can look at social networks for a wide range of publicly posted personal information about yourself, such as financially-related information. If you haven’t been totally honest about something, such as your taxes, you might not want to say too much on social networks about your financial situation, or post pictures of that brand new car you just bought. The same applies for anything “illegal” you might have done. Another example of getting caught red-handed is releasing confidential business information through an account before it is public knowledge. What effect could that have if the information got into the wrong hands?

BREAK-IN’S – There’s some evidence to support the belief that burglars are turning to social media to find their targets. Broadcasting the dates of your next family holiday on social networks may sound innocent enough, but bear in mind that you are letting people know the dates you are away from your home. If that information got into the wrong hands, what could some of the implications be? Furthermore, some services like Foursquare and other location base tools may also put you at risk if you publicly check-in everywhere you go.

EMPLOYERS – Many employers use social networks to investigate candidates for positions in their companies before they decide whether to officially offer you the job. Whether this is morally right is a debate for another day, but the bottom line is that there are instances of it occurring and you could be ruining your chances of being hired for your dream job by oversharing information about yourself.

PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS – How many times have you heard about Facebook causing a divorce because people got caught having an online romance? Not much remains private when you share on social media sites. Also remember that whenever you include other people in your posts on social networks, these people might not be as willing as you are to share their private lives. Don’t ruin your personal relationships by oversharing!

And that’s just naming a few of the consequences of oversharing on social media! If you’re still skeptical about oversharing, or don’t think it’s something people really do, here’s a great list of real life examples of the ‘Top 10 people who got caught on Facebook’ put together by Time Magazine.

A further breakdown of the results in the study by Retrovo highlights the impact oversharing had on a couple of the examples mentioned above.

Here’s a nice infograph designed by Whitefire SEO which looks at ‘Twitter Psychology’ but highlights some great facts about oversharing, including the fact that 66% of people who unfollowed people on Twitter was because they were oversharing and posting too much.

So How Can I Stop Oversharing?

Before going on social media sites, set limits for yourself and think twice before you post those personal pictures or you start bad-mouthing your boss or mother in-law! Posting a picture of your last wild party night might seem innocent but you never know who’s going to use it against you in the future.

If you’re feeling angry or sad, it might be a good idea to step away from your computer for a few hours until you can think logically and have a better state of mind. You might be surprised of what seemed to be a good idea a few hours before is not such a good idea anymore.

My personal mantra when posting anything on a social network is:
“If you wouldn’t openly say it to a roomful of people, don’t say it on a social network!”

Have you ever posted personal information on social networks that you have regretted later on? Or had employees that have over-shared information on social networks which has affected the business?