Social media scams have become quite common nowadays. Hence, it’s now critical for users to start educating themselves about the risks, while learning how to protect themselves against these ever-growing threats. This article offers a series of tips on how to minimize cyber crime-related dangers on social media.
- Why Protecting Your Social Media Accounts Is a Must
- 1. Set Strong Passwords
- 2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
- 3. Add a Recovery Email and Phone Number
- 4. Set up Login Alerts (Where Possible)
- 5. Use the Built-In Security Checkup
- 6. Stay Away From Suspicious Links and Emails
- 7. Report Scammers
- 8. Share Less About Yourself Online
- 9. Always Sign Out Once You’re Done Using an App
- 10. Secure Your Mobile Device
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why Protecting Your Social Media Accounts Is a Must
We tend to post everything on our social media accounts. From pictures with friends and family to the locations we’ve recently visited or we’re currently at. Unless we’ve switched our profiles to private, all this info is laid out for anyone to see. What’s more, our accounts aren’t even isolated, as they are often connected to other apps we use. For instance, you can link your Instagram or Spotify to your Facebook account.
If hackers manage to crack open your social media account(s), they will easily get access to a lot of information. Even worse, by following certain threads they may even gain access to your credit card information and other critical data. Despite these obvious dangers, many users still continue to underestimate the importance of social media safety.
The good news is that by taking action early on and changing some of your social media habits, such as using the same password for various social media accounts, you can secure all your private data and discourage cybercriminals from targeting your account.
1. Set Strong Passwords
Passwords are usually the first line of defense against social media hacks. Unfortunately, the number one mistake a lot of people make is use the same password for all their social media accounts. This is a practice best avoided, even if remembering all your online logins can be challenging.
For this reason, we recommend that you install a robust password manager on your device. It will help you track all your credentials with ease as well as generate strong passwords when you need them.
Even if you’ve set strong passwords, you should be prepared to change them any time your social media app announces any kind of breach or notifies you of any suspicious activity on your account. Also, setting up a new password is a good idea if you find a virus or malware on your PC or if you’ve recently shared your password with someone else.
Finally, while you definitely shouldn’t change your password once a month, at least not unprompted, an additional security measure can be to generate a new password once a year.
2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
One of the most reliable ways to secure your social media accounts is to enable two-factor authentication (2FA).
The way this feature works is that when you log in, you will be required to enter a randomly generated code to verify your account. By doing this, you will add an extra layer of security to your account and make hackers’ job harder, as they would have to have direct access to your phone or authenticator app in order to retrieve the code.
The vast majority of social media apps offer this option, and we show you how to enable 2FA in popular social apps such as Facebook and Snapchat. If possible, opt for an authenticator app over SMS to receive your login codes.
3. Add a Recovery Email and Phone Number
You’ll need an email address to sign up for most social media apps, but adding your phone number is usually optional. However, make sure that you add an email as well as a phone number to your account. It will help with account recovery in case you get hacked or if your account becomes inaccessible to you for any reason.
For instance, on Facebook you can enlist the help of a friend to recover your account through their profile. Once you follow the appropriate steps, you’ll be able to reset your password via a code that can be sent by SMS.
Moreover, checking that your email information is up to date is also important. Most social apps will send email alerts in case something goes wrong with your account, and it’s crucial that you pay attention to these official emails. Don’t ignore them or you may miss out on some urgent information regarding your account. When you finally decide to investigate, it may be too late.
4. Set up Login Alerts (Where Possible)
Login alerts is a feature that’s available on various social apps, but not all. For example, you can enable it on Facebook. This way, you’ll receive a notification each time someone tries to log into your account, allowing you to take action quickly if something is amiss. On Instagram, login alerts are enabled by default, and you’ll receive an email whenever a suspicious login happens (for instance, if Instagram detects a login from a new device).
Some apps also put a feature called “Login activity” at your disposal. If available, it should be checked frequently, so that you can easily identify any logins that don’t belong to you and log out of there fast. When you do that, most of the time you’ll be asked to change your password. Go ahead and do so if you have reason to believe that someone might have been meddling with your account.
5. Use the Built-In Security Checkup
Some apps such as Instagram and Facebook offer a built-in security checkup feature that helps you gauge the security of your account. On Instagram, the feature will check whether you’ve enabled 2FA or added a phone number to your account. If you haven’t, you will be prompted to do so for maximum protection.
Keep in mind that not every social app offers this option, but do check their individual security settings to see if you’re in luck. The built-in security checkup is a quick fix for an account that’s a little bit shaky on security.
6. Stay Away From Suspicious Links and Emails
Phishing represents a real threat on social media, which has become a fertile ground for all kinds of bots and scammers who are tirelessly trying to access your sensitive data. Many phishing attempts these days come in the form of a link sent either via email or through someone contacting you online. In some cases, even friends can be the source of such dubious emails.
We suggested above that it’s in your best interest not to ignore official emails from various social media sites you’ve signed up with. However, you should tread carefully here, as many of these phishing emails are sent from addresses that can mimic official ones. If you need some help in this department, we have a guide that can help you decide whether you’re dealing with a phishing scam or not.
7. Report Scammers
If you’ve received a suspicious link from someone, don’t just ignore it. You should immediately report the account and the shady activity associated with it to the app in question. All social media apps allow users to do that, and being proactive will help hinder spammers’ efforts in gaining unlawful access to users’ data.
8. Share Less About Yourself Online
While we may get the urge to share as much as possible about ourselves online, it would be wiser, not to mention safer, to refrain from doing that too much.
The thing is, the more information hackers have at their disposal, the easier it becomes for them to get you to fall for their scams. To counter this, we encourage you to make your social media profile private, if the app offers that option (and most of them do).
In doing so, you will prevent random individuals from gaining access to your private information – the schools you’ve attended, your current job etc. We also advise that you don’t go into too many details online. For instance, don’t post on Facebook that you’re about to go on holiday in the Maldives for a week. Also, when it comes to work-related information, it’s better to keep things separate with a dedicated business profile or a B2B social media platform.
While many use social media to make new friends, it’s best if you don’t befriend people you don’t know. Social media is teeming with fake profiles and dubious individuals who are all too willing to spread malware, initiate catfishing attempts, or help propagate phishing scams. So be wary about whom you allow access to your profile.
Social media thrives on its users sharing as much as possible, but we advise you to opt for moderation instead. Don’t post all your details online, and try to keep a closed list of friends. This will allow your accounts to fly under the radar, making them less likely to become a target for hackers.
9. Always Sign Out Once You’re Done Using an App
This is a good habit to form. Even if you’re using your social media accounts at home, don’t forget to sign out of them once you’re done browsing on your PC or mobile apps. This will help avoid scenarios where members of the household or guests can gain access to your account inconspicuously.
It’s especially important that you remember to sign out if you’re using a public computer or wireless connections. If you can, abstain from accessing your social media accounts on public or shared computers. It’s extremely easy to eavesdrop on internet traffic on public wireless networks. If you must check your account, never enable the “remember me” or “keep me logged in” options when logging in to your app of choice.
Alternatively, opt for using social media apps within your browser rather than using the dedicated apps. This may make it easier for you to remember to log out once you’re done browsing. Unfortunately, using a browser isn’t possible with all social apps. For example, Snapchat exists only in the form of an app.
10. Secure Your Mobile Device
If you’ve logged in to social media on your mobile device, make sure you’re taking measures to protect the device. Add a passcode or enable face unlocking, to prevent others from accessing your device when you’re not paying attention.
As we recommended above, logging out of your social accounts after each session is also a good practice. Even if your device gets stolen or lost, your private account will be safe.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the signs of a hacked account?
You can tell that your account has been hacked if you notice suspicious activity going on. Here are a few red flags to look out for.
- Messages or content that you don’t remember posting
- New friends who have been added to your Friend list without your authorization
- Emails alerting you of various unknown logins to your account
- Suspicious devices showing up in your login activity
- Inability to log in to your account though the credentials are correct
What can I do if I suspect that my account has been compromised?
The first thing you should do is change your password. Then, remotely log out of all the devices you don’t recognize. Depending on the social app you’re using, you can report your concerns via official channels. Finally, don’t forget to also alert your friends to ignore any potential links coming from your account while you sort out the matter.
Should I create a dedicated email address for my social media accounts?
It can be a good idea to do so. If any of your social accounts end up being compromised, hackers won’t have access to the valuable information contained in your primary email account. If you think keeping track of multiple email accounts is too much work, we suggest that you learn how to check multiple email accounts from one inbox or consider installing a password manager app.
Image credit: Pexels
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