social media security risks

Matt Buck Cartoon

We all know the fantastic impact that social media has had – such as breaking news stories, keeping us “in the loop”, connecting people, making contacts, catching up with old friends etc – but it sadly hasn’t all been positive…which has left a fly (or should that be worm) in the social media ointment.

What am I prattling on about you may ask? Well, hackers and online scammers are unfortunately exploiting the popularity and trust in social networking to scam and hustle people on social media websites out of private information and even money. It has started to filter through to people that there is a spam problem, as you have probably seen status updates on Facebook from friends warning their mates about a virus or two.

But here are the Top 10 basic tips and pointers to stay safe when social networking;

social media security

  1. Avoid clicking on links, but if you need to then hover over the link and ensure that they are going to respectable websites. Scammers use your friend’s profiles to post malicious links, so be careful.
  2. Use strong passwords that features numbers and characters (*#$ etc). Do not use words.  Change your password regularly.
  3. Run anti-virus software every couple of days.
  4. Delete cookies regularly.
  5. Don’t add people you don’t know – especially on Facebook – as scammers use fake profiles to spy on you. Twitter is different, as you will add lots of people you don’t know – but ensure the tweets look like a human is “tweeting” and get to know the person before clicking on their links. You can easily block people on Twitter and remove their ability to send you direct messages.
  6. Be careful when using Wi-fi, as the security isn’t quite to the same level as a traditional connection. That’s not to say that you should avoid using it – but don’t click on links in your inbox or in text messages you have received.
  7. Updates from friends that claim to be the video of the body of Osama Bin Laden or ‘My Ex-Girlfriend Cheated on me… Here is my revenge!’ posts (and a whole host of others) are spam. Don’t click on them and delete immediately.
  8. Most sites have a “report spam/abuse” addresses if you suspect a post of being spam. Spammers do change (and get rid of) accounts regularly, but even so – it is essential to report suspicious activities.
  9. Don’t enter your Facebook login anywhere other than Facebook.com.
  10. Browse the security sections, such as http://twitter.com/about/security and http://www.facebook.com/security, just to keep you up-to-date and aware of things to avoid.

If you have been caught off-guard and think you have been attacked, immediately change your password, delete posts/uninstall the Facebook app, inform the website administrator that you suspect a post is spam, and run a virus scan on your computer.

Author: James Brack writes regular commentary on current topics relating to SEO, social media security and computer forensic news