Social media has enhanced our lives in so many ways, by letting us keep in contact with those we love no matter where they live. With just a few minutes of effort, we can learn all the doings of our friends and families and provide this information to them just as easily.
But there is a dark side to social media as well. Not only can friends and families learn about you there, but so can those who want to steal from you and those who would like to sell you things. People can also use information that you post on social media to hurt you and your family.
This article describes the most common dangers of social media as well as ways in which you can protect yourself from them.
Data and Identity Theft
Today, most computer users are aware of the dangers of both data and identity theft, but many have become conditioned to only worry about this when they are buying products and services online or when they are accessing their financial accounts. However, hackers and other criminals can obtain important information about you through social media that can help them steal from you. Also, if you use your social media credentials to log into other sites and these become compromised, criminals can access these accounts and harm you in many different ways. Companies can further use your social media information to sell you things that you do not want and constantly annoy you with ads.
One of the best ways that you can protect yourself from privacy invasion while using social media is through the use of a virtual private network (VPN) on all your devices (including mobile ones), especially if you often access the Internet through a public Wi-Fi network. A VPN will encrypt your connection and all the data that you send and receive, and it will help protect you and your location from being identified by others.
You should also make sure that all your devices have both virus protection and a firewall and that the software for these is automatically updated. Another step that you should take is to enable two-factor authentication on all your social media accounts, as this will help prevent a criminal from logging in as you. Finally, you should consider getting identity theft protection, too. This will protect you against loss if someone is able to steal your identity in spite of your efforts to prevent this.
Cyberstalking and Cyberbullying
Two of the most insidious dangers of social media are cyberstalking and cyberbullying. If you do not safeguard your social media accounts and the information that you post on them, anyone can access your personal data, including those who want to hurt you and the people that you love.
Unless you are a public figure or have a real pressing need to make your social media posts public, you should strongly consider making your social media accounts as private as possible. You should also make sure that you disable the broadcasting of your location and be extra vigilant about accepting friend requests, even if they appear to be from people that you know.
If you have children, there are further steps that you should take to protect them while they are online. This includes employing parental control measures, monitoring their online activities and teaching them the importance of staying safe while online.
Like with data and identity theft, computer users are usually more aware of online scams when they are using sites outside social media. As most of the content that we view on social media comes from our friends and family, we tend to view all information there as being benign. But this is anything but true.
Scams on social media can take various forms. This can include posts with links to malicious websites as well as quizzes and questionnaires that are trying to gain access to your profile information. You should especially avoid clicking on anything that promises you something for free, as most often it will be you who will end up giving something away for free.
While the dangers of using social media are real and you need to be aware of them, this does not mean that you need to forgo using social media. By following the protections outlined here, you can keep connected with friends and family and at the same time prevent others from harming you.