Social media going mainstream and getting adopted by millions of individuals and businesses may be one of the best things that have happened in the twenty-first century, but it also came with its baggage of problems and drawbacks. With each social media platform came the rising number of social engineering attacks, destructive rumors, and negative impacts on society as a whole. As a matter of fact, some repressive governments have used the negative sides of social media as excuses to restrict its use and censor their citizens.
The term ‘social media’ is a broad concept that covers a diverse range of online platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, WhatsApp, and Reddit among many others. These websites provide features that allow users to engage in social interactions and share opinions, personal details, pictures, and videos with other registered members of the community.
Social Media has become one of the best tools for reaching audiences easily. It is also great for businesses as it allows them to engage directly with their customers without spending too much on advertising. This is why it’s important for companies to learn how to protect themselves from potential threats and keep their online image clean.
Social engineering and other risks
The term “social engineering” refers to influencing someone to take a course of action that may or may not be in the target’s or attacker’s best interests. Public figures and companies have been the main targets of social engineering attacks which have already caused damages to their reputation, finances, and even personal safety.
Social media dangers can be grouped into three main categories:
1. Personal attacks – This involves using personal information found on social media sites to harass or intimidate someone in real life, which is commonly called cyberbullying.
2. Security risks – Social networking exposes users to security risks such as identity theft, impersonation frauds, computer viruses, spyware, and cyberstalking.
3. Social engineering attacks – Baiting, scareware, phishing, and similar attacks all fall under social engineering. This may refer to tricking someone to divulge personal information or influencing someone to take a course of action. The most used social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – are also the primary targets of information thieves who use these services to gather information on their victims and then use it for criminal purposes such as fraud and extortion.
How can you use these platforms safely and responsibly?
When it comes to social media, it is essential for everyone using these platforms to know the rules and implement a set of guidelines regarding safety tips in order to avoid falling into a negative spiral that will lead them astray. While there are many articles that try to offer advice on how to use social media, here are a few things you should consider before you apply them in your daily routine.
Build up an exemplary profile
Your online presence is one of the first things people will see when they stumble upon your account, whether it’s through a search engine or another user sharing your name while tagging their posts. Make sure your page reflects who you are and what you do without being too flashy or spamming your followers with ads.
Social media is not a weapon of attack
An important thing to remember is that social media should not be used as a weapon to attack people or companies. You might think it’s fun to play games, especially when someone gets hurt in the process, but once you lose yourself in the game, it will be hard to stop. You shouldn’t be the cause of someone losing their job or a company losing customers unfairly just because you think it’s fun to launch a social media attack.
Stalking is creepy
Stalking or harassing someone on social media is no different from doing the same in real life. Whatever you find creepy doing in real life is definitely creepy on social media.
Don’t be too visible
After you create an account on any of these platforms, make sure you are visible enough to be found by your friends but not too much that strangers could easily find you. However, this may not apply if you are a public figure. Keep in mind that you should not be too open about who you are when it comes to sharing personal information.
Be cautious with your personal data — do not post sensitive or classified information online, including personal photos, videos, full names, birth dates, phone numbers, and addresses. Limit the amount of personal information you share online and enable privacy settings provided by each platform to restrict access to your account only to friends or followers that you trust.
Watch those you follow and who follows you
Follow people you know personally so that they can verify your identity and ensure that you are not being followed by someone who may do you harm. Once your followers’ list grows too fast, take a step back and see which of those accounts have been inactive for a long time or look suspicious, then review them to make sure they are safe to follow before removing any of them from your account.
A large number of social media users have already fallen victim to identity theft because they failed to check the profile of the person they are following. This is especially common when people use Facebook’s Find Friends feature to follow people they don’t know personally. It’s also advisable to avoid posting your email address in public posts and always make sure that your social media profiles are closely guarded against identity thieves.
Protect your passwords
One of the most common ways of gathering information for a social engineering attack is through phishing which uses fake emails and text messages to get victims to reveal their personal data by claiming that it’s a mandatory part of a process such as updating your account or changing your password. You should always protect your passwords and never share them with anyone, even people posing as employees of the social media platform.
Read the terms and conditions
Once you decide to open an account on a social media platform, be aware of the terms and conditions they have set up to protect your privacy. It is important to know how they will use your information, who can see it, and what you can or cannot do with their service. Remember that once you have agreed to their policies, you have no choice but to follow them without any exceptions.
Check your privacy settings
When it comes to safety tips for social media, most people recommend changing the privacy settings of your current profile to avoid exposing personal information that could get into the wrong hands. It is also recommended that you keep an eye on what other people post about you and always know who has access to your account.
Use the report button when necessary
Most of these social media platforms have a feature where users can report any offensive or inappropriate content, so make sure you take advantage of it if you feel threatened or offended by another member.
Shut down fake accounts
If you come across a fake account using your name, take immediate action by reporting it to the social media site and ask them to shut it down; otherwise, you may be forced to change your real name and the information associated with your account.
One of the most important safety tips that should be followed when it comes to social media is honesty. Never lie about yourself nor create a false identity for any reason. People want to connect with real people, not fictional characters made up from a few details and a pretty profile picture, so make sure you keep yourself genuine and factual. Again, as you do this, remember not to share too much.
Do not overdo it
The last social media safety tip we recommend following is not to overdo it with the information you share on your profile and how much time you spend browsing or posting on these platforms. Also, do not let social media interfere with your work to the point where you are always distracted viewing pictures on Instagram and Facebook.
Have a life outside of social media where you can freely enjoy talking to new people, meeting up with old friends, and enjoying interests that keep you busy and entertained without needing to pick up your phone or access the Internet.
Remember that social media should be fun, engaging, and a way for you to connect with others in an open manner. If it starts feeling like a chore or becomes too much of a distraction from real life, then maybe it’s time to step away from the keyboard and find something else to do.
Most of the time, social media is a helpful platform for people who are looking to increase their reach or connect with old friends they may have lost contact with. It can even be fun if you know how to use it right without falling into any pitfalls that could lead them astray. Make sure you always exercise caution when using these platforms to avoid putting yourself in compromising situations.
You should also make sure you know how to use social media responsibly by reading the terms and conditions set out by each platform before you agree to them. If any of the rules outlined are too restrictive, then it’s best that you not open an account with said company.