Share with care: How to safely enjoy social media

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Social media platforms have become an integral part of our lives. Social media is a great way to stay connected with others, but you should be wary about the information you post. Posting too much personal information makes it easier for hackers to access your passwords, steal your identity, or worse. Don’t let that scare you, though! You can still enjoy posting on Facebook or Instagram—just be mindful of the content you share. Below are a few tips to help you safely partake in social media:

Check your privacy settings

When you sign up for a new social media account or download a new app, immediately configure the privacy and security settings to your comfort level for information sharing. Regularly monitor these settings to ensure they are set to your preference. The National Cybersecurity Alliance resource page has a tool that compiles privacy-setting information for most digital providers.

Don’t post personal information

Be cautious about how much personal information you provide on social networking sites. The more information you post, the easier it may be for a hacker or someone else to use that information to steal your identity, access your data, or commit other crimes, like stalking.

For example, you may have seen your Facebook friends posting their answers to surveys with questions like: What’s your favorite color? How many TVs are in your house? Or how many pets do you own? These questions seem harmless. But they’re often similar to security questions used by websites to identify you. Posting your answers to these questions puts you at risk of your accounts becoming compromised.

Watch what you post

Protect your reputation on social networks—what you post online stays online. Think twice before posting pictures you wouldn’t want your parents or future employers to see. According to one survey, 67% of employers use social media to research potential job candidates.

Clean up your social media before applying for jobs. Conduct a digital footprint analysis—review your social content and think about how others may perceive those posts. You should also Google yourself and look through the information that appears to decipher whether any of it will negatively affect your chances of getting hired.

Know and manage your friends

Social networks can be used for various purposes. Some of the fun is creating a large pool of friends from many aspects of your life—that doesn’t mean all friends are created equal. Just like cleaning up your social posts, you should occasionally purge your friend list.

In the past, you may have added people you barely know or have never met before. A lot has changed since the dawn of Facebook, and these days, people tend to keep their circles small. Protect your privacy by scrubbing your friend list and removing old acquaintances, people you don’t recognize, or even an ex you don’t want to be in contact with anymore.

Enable multi-factor authentication

Use two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication (MFA) (like biometrics, security keys, or a unique, one-time code through an app on your mobile device) whenever offered.

When you log in to your account, the first step is giving your password or passphrase. The second step is to provide an extra way of proving your identity, like entering a PIN, texting/emailing a code to your phone, or accessing an authenticator app. Enabling MFA makes it twice as hard for hackers to access an online account or obtain personal information.

Use long, unique passwords

Length trumps complexity. A strong password is at least 12 characters long and a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy to remember.

If you have trouble remembering your passwords, consider using a password manager. Password managers securely store your online credentials in an encrypted database, giving you peace of mind that your information is safe. It’s also easier to use unique passwords on different sites because the password manager remembers your login information.

Think before you click

Links in tweets, texts, posts, and social media messages are the easiest way for cybercriminals to get sensitive information. Be wary of clicking on links or downloading anything that comes from a stranger or that you were not expecting.

Social media can be a great way to stay connected with friends and family, but it’s important to be mindful of the information you share. By following the above tips, you can safely enjoy social media without risking your personal information.

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