Almost everyone is using social media and most of us use more than one social network system. I am personally on three, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. All three have their own advantages and disadvantages, and all three are lacking good automatic protection of your privacy and security. This week I want to provide some advice on how to safely use these networks and still protect your personal data.
First and most important is to always remember, even if you believe you are on an anonymous site, that once something is posted or messaged, it cannot be removed. Once something is on the internet it is always there and never goes away. For example http://web.archive.org/ is personal websites from May 12, 1996 from infoseek.com, a predecessor of Facebook. Infoseek was bought by Disney and dissolved in 1999, but all the personal information is still online at archive.org. This being said, make sure you don’t post anything to social media that will hurt your reputation as it will never go away. Your online reputation can be a good thing or a bad thing. It is your choice depending on what you post and how you act online.
Second is to make sure you keep your personal information personal. The more information you post about yourself the easier it is for someone to steal your identity, access your data, or commit other crimes using your online profile. My favorite example is a Facebook post of a family photo at Christmas, in the background is a whiteboard with the families Amazon password written in large letters. Everyone has their e-mail address listed as public on their Facebook profiles and it is just a matter of guessing who manages the Amazon account, now they can log on as this user and make Amazon purchases.
Third make sure you know your online friends. It is very easy to create a fake profile for a person that does not exist and gather personal information on others. Or worse yet, create a profile using a real name a photo to trick someone into sharing personal information. Never accept a friend request from a stranger, or someone that you believe you are already friends without confirming by some other means that they have created a new account. Even the local police force uses fake identities on Facebook to gather information about criminal activities, so be careful who you friend and what you share.
The rest of my advice has to do with protecting your accounts and your computer from malicious people and software. Number one keep your security software up to date, it does not do any good to install an antivirus software and never apply the updates, there are new viruses released nearly every day. It is important to protect your computer because all your passwords and personal information can be recovered from your computer with the right software.
Number Two protect your accounts by having good passwords. Just to give you an idea, a six-character password can be guessed by a hacker using simple software in under 15 minutes, and a 11 character password with the same software will take 10 years and anything longer than 12 characters will take over 200 years to guess. The strongest passwords that are easy to remember are sentences or phrases. I personally like to use Bible verses. For example, John3:16 to create a password using the first letter of each word to come up with FGsltwthghobstwbihsnpbhelJn3:16. It is easy to remember, fairly easy to type, but nearly impossible to guess.
Number three never use the same username and password combination on more than one website, for example don’t use the same login information on both twitter and Facebook, or use your g-mail password for Facebook. It is highly likely that if one of your accounts gets hacked, the hacker will attempt to use the same email and password on all the other social media sites. Also, I do not recommend keep passwords written in a notebook, unless you have a safe and keep it locked up all the time. It is better to install a password keeper software on your computer or smartphone and keep passwords encrypted there with a very strong master password. You can get a nice free password safe software at http://keepass.info. Until next week stay safe online.