How you can protect yourself on social networking sites

Yaron Dror

September 15, 2022

  • # Account Protection
  • # Phishing Protection

Social media is for more than just socializing. You can do everything from searching for a job to buying a new couch. 

When you’re spending so much time on those platforms, you’re putting a lot of information out there — and that means you’re more vulnerable to cyber threats. The key to staying safe is to put protective measures in place, like using strong passwords, implementing biometric protection for passwords and two-factor authentication (2FA), and staying informed about potential vulnerabilities. 

Here’s how you can protect yourself on social networking sites and keep your information secure.

Common security threats on social media

Social media platforms provide cyber criminals with ample opportunities to take advantage of you, including everything from selling fake merchandise to hacking into your account. But the most common threat on social media is phishing. 

Phishing attacks happen when criminals, or phishers, trick you into revealing sensitive information like personal details and login credentials. Phishers might also ask you to click on a link that downloads a virus or malware. At best, you’ll have to change your password, and at worst, you could be a victim of identity theft or significant financial loss — which is why it’s so important to know what phishing looks like and stay alert.

Common types of social media phishing include:

  1. Facebook phishing: This type of scam targets users through deceptive friend requests or messages. Hackers often create fake profiles to appear trustworthy, whether by posing as someone you know, a stranger who pretends to know you, or simply a random but real person. Then, they might ask you to share your personal details or click on a malware link. 

  2. Instagram phishing: This type of phishing usually involves direct messages from accounts that seem legitimate. Hackers might impersonate someone you know, like with Facebook phishing, but they also could pretend to be a brand that wants to sponsor you or an attractive stranger who wants to start a romantic relationship. Either way, their goal is to steal your information.

  3. LinkedIn phishing: LinkedIn phishing exploits the platform's professional nature. Attackers pose as recruiters or business contacts, often asking you to apply for a job or reveal confidential business information. These scams can lead to significant identity and data theft, affecting you as an individual as well as the organization you work for.

While these three platforms are the most common for phishing, you’ll also find cyber criminals on X (formerly Twitter), WhatsApp, and any other social media you can think of. No matter what apps and websites you use, you should stay alert — and never give away your information to a stranger.

What hackers can get from your social media

The whole point of social media is to share information about yourself. Anyone online — phishers aside — might be able to see valuable personal information such as your full name, where you work, and details about your life. 

All of these details have the potential to be exploited. For example, if you make an Instagram post about your first pet, and your account is public, a cyber criminal could see that and use the information to answer security questions and log into your accounts. 

Here’s what hackers can get from your social media profiles. Keep in mind that the details vary depending on what you decide to share and what your security settings are.

  • Your full name

  • What you look like 

  • What car you drive

  • Your city, neighborhood, and even address

  • Your age and birth date

  • Your job and workplace

  • Past education and jobs

  • The full names and details of your family and friends

  • Your marital status and dating life

  • Contact information like phone numbers and email addresses

  • Your hobbies and interests

  • Your political alignment 

  • Your feelings and preferences

10 ways to protect yourself on social media

Your social media accounts can give cyber criminals opportunities to hack and steal from you — but that doesn’t mean you have to let them. Here’s how to protect your information and avoid becoming a victim of phishing:

1. Adjust your security settings 

The first thing you should do is check the security settings of every platform you use and make sure strangers can’t see your private information. Adjust your privacy settings so only people you know can add you and access your posts. This process depends on the platform, but try to make your accounts as airtight as possible.

2. Use biometric authentication 

If hackers do get access to your information, processes like two-factor authentication (2FA), multi-factor authentication (MFA), and biometric authentication can keep them from logging into your accounts. They add an extra layer of security so if someone learns your password, they’ll also have to respond to a text or use facial recognition to log in, which they likely won’t be able to do.

On most platforms, you can enable 2FA or MFA and use your phone number or device to log into your account. But for stronger cybersecurity, use IronVest’s biometric protection which you can add to any account. Not only will you have multiple layers protecting your accounts, but those layers will rely on biometric recognition, which means only you will be able to log in.

3. Regularly update account permissions

Social media accounts often integrate with other services and apps, like your camera roll. That means if someone logs into your social media, they’ll be able to access those other apps, too. Regularly reviewing and updating these permissions minimizes risk if something does happen to your account.

4. Update your software

The older your apps and software are, the fewer security features they’ll have. Software developers frequently release updates that fix vulnerabilities, so enable automatic updates to make sure you always have the latest versions of your social media apps. This measure protects you against evolving security threats

5. Secure your email accounts

Email accounts are often the account recovery point for your social media. A compromised email can lead to a domino effect and put all of your linked accounts in danger. Take the time to secure your email address with a strong password and biometric authentication — it’ll prevent larger issues down the line. Also, get in the habit of using masked emails when you create new accounts or sign up for new services. 

6. Avoid sharing identification numbers

Be cautious about sharing personal information on social media — especially identification numbers from your driver’s license, passport, or credit card. You might be excited about your trip abroad, but posting a picture of your passport exposes your number to potential cyber criminals who could use it for identity theft. 

7. Heed security alerts

Pay attention to security alerts from your social media platforms. These alerts can inform you of suspicious logins or unauthorized attempts to access your account, which can help you take immediate action if something’s wrong.

8. Never click suspicious links

If an unknown account sends you a link, or someone you know sends a message that feels out of character with a link, don’t click it. It could be a front for malware or identity theft. If it seems important — like if the unknown account claims to be Instagram letting you know about an update — contact the person or platform directly. Most reliable sources won’t contact you via message.

9. Be cautious with friend requests

Be cautious about accepting friend requests from unknown individuals. Cyber criminals often use fake accounts for phishing and scams, so just decline any from people you don't recognize. Some criminals also create accounts with the name and photos of someone you know, so if you see a request from a brand-new account even though you know that person has one already, ask them about it in person. 

10. Adhere to community guidelines

Familiarize yourself with — and adhere to — the community guidelines of each social media platform. These guidelines are designed to maintain a safe and secure environment for all users, and going against them could put you at risk.

What to do if you’ve been hacked on social media

Hackers could access your social media accounts in a number of ways. They might use specialized software to “guess” your password, analyze your public information to infer what your password is, or trick you into revealing your login details. But no matter how it happens, a hacked account could put you and your contacts in danger — so act fast.

If someone does hack into your account, here’s what to do:

1. Change your passwords

Changing your passwords is the first critical step when you suspect a hacking incident. Even if only one account is at risk, make sure each of your accounts has a strong, unique combination. If you use the same one for everything, once a hacker knows one password, they’ll know them all. The best way to do this is to use a password manager like IronVest and add biometric protection to each of those accounts so only you can access them. 

There’s also a chance a cyber criminal has changed your password already. In that case, your first step should be to contact the platform directly to let them know what’s going on.

2. Check where you’re logged in

Review the devices and locations where your account is currently logged in. Social media platforms often provide this feature so you can see where anyone’s accessed your account without authorization. Then, log out from all unfamiliar sessions. It’s also a good idea to verify the emails and phone numbers linked to your account because a hacker could have changed them.

3. Contact all platforms 

Make sure all platforms — including linked websites and apps — know what’s going on. This is especially important if your social media accounts include your banking information because that means a hack could lead to financial theft. 

At this stage, you should also notify your social network so they’re on the lookout for suspicious messages from your account. Hackers could use your account for phishing, using social engineering to get your friends and family to click malware links or reveal information. 

Secure your digital footprint with IronVest

Protecting your social media accounts starts with prevention. And while your security settings can help keep cyber criminals from seeing your information, you need a more robust system. 

IronVest's digital security super app keeps your information safe — including your credit card numbers, contact information, and login credentials. It uses airtight biometric authentication methods to make sure only you can access your accounts, and on top of that, it can mask your email, phone numbers, and credit cards. Get IronVest today for a safer digital life tomorrow.

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