Tuesday 1 December, 2020

Protecting your personal information on social media

Martin Hoz, vice president of Technical Support and Engineering for Latin America and the Caribbeanat Fortinet.

Martin Hoz, vice president of Technical Support and Engineering for Latin America and the Caribbeanat Fortinet.

Social media has become closely embedded in our daily lives. It is no longer limited to sharing our personal thoughts and photographs with our close friends but has instead evolved to an encompassing medium in which we heavily rely on for a wide variety of purposes, ranging from entertainment to news to even seeking employment opportunities and networking, writes Martin Hoz, vice president of Technical Support and Engineering for Latin America and the Caribbean at Fortinet.

See the full Op-ed from Hoz below:

In fact, statistics reveal that the average daily social media usage has increased to 135 minutes per day on a worldwide scale. Younger generations are among the most common users, with surveys revealing teens spend an average of one-third of their day consuming media.

With our increasing reliance on social media as a preferred entertainment and connection medium, along with prominent data breaches headlining news - such as the recent Twittersoftware glitch that exposed its users’ passwords in readable text on its internal computer system - it's now more important than ever to follow proper social media and online safety measures in order to protect our personal information.

Below are some easy-to-follow tips we often recommend at Fortinet for all internet and social media users to keep in mind when browsing different online platforms.

  1. Remember that social media is public by nature.
    Privacy does not exist in the social media world. Anything published, even the most insignificant thing, will be available to our friends and even potentially to complete strangers. Be very cautious with the personal or professional details you reveal, and understand that once you have published something, this information is no longer under your control and can be accessed by anyone, both in present or future occasions.
  2. Control social media connections
    Cybercriminals often set up fake pages or accounts and then request that you add them as a friend, hoping to steal data or trick you into clicking on links to infected sites. Before granting "friendship" with any profile, try to validate if there is a real person behind the screen. Especially distrust profiles with highly-attractive photographs and few things in common with yourself. Why is this 'person' contacting you? When was the account set up? What year do they claim to have graduated from college or started their new job? Can you see photos of normal activity or does their page appearto be mostly of seemingly image database photographs? If the person making the request is someone you know, check to see if he or she has friends in common. Look at their vital information. If you still have doubts, contact them directly to see if they createda new profile. Otherwise, their account has likely been hijacked or duplicated, and sooner or later you may become a target or medium to conduct some type of scam or cyberattack, even if unintentional.

    Moreover, never click on links received through private messages, even if the sender is a friend of yours, and especially so if it is a strange message (another language, unknown topic, etc). Verifying beforehand and not acting without thinking, however interesting the link's title may be, may go a long way in avoiding having to explain later on: "I was hacked...."
  3. Understand and follow secure online practices
    Secure practices includelimiting easily findable personal information, implementing privacy settings on gaming and social media apps, using the 'group friends' features when available to share private or sensitive information to only these groups, and regularly filtering friend requests. Activate parental controls (especially in social video sharing networks) if there are minors who access these from the same device, as today it is common for parents and children to share devices. Also monitor credit card informationfor online purchases. If possible, have a credit card that you use only for online transactions (and, of course, check these transactions more frequently than youreveryday card). All of these practices contribute to a safer environment.
  4. Safe password practices
    Having a strong password, contrary to popular belief, is not restricted to refraining from using guessable numeric digits or our place of birth. Changing your passwords every two to three months and using different ones across different platforms and networks contribute greatly to protecting your personal information, as in case of a breach, you can have peace of mind knowing you wouldn't need to change all of your passwords on online environments. Watch for unwarranted attempts using your account. Social networks tend to have alerts that notify you in case someone has connected from an unusual site or when someone tried to enter your account with an unsuccessful password. Be diligent with these mechanisms.

    In addition, enabling two-factor authentication ensures hackers cannot easily access your email or online bank accounts by hacking your password. Two-factor authentication will require individuals trying to access any sensible account to provide a security code sent to the owner’s phone number.
  5. Regular updating devices
    Last but not least, regularly updating all of your devices is imperative when looking to protect personal information.It is advisable to make an inventory of the devices in your home that connect to the internet, including phones, TVs, security cameras, home routers and/or wireless access points. Next, query online for known vulnerabilities or patches to ensure these devices and applications are running the latest patches and the most current versions of their operating systems, so as to limit any potential threat that can be exploited. Do this at least a couple of times per year.

Protecting ourselves is no longer limited to looking both ways when crossing the street or not opening the door to strangers. In today's digital world, most of our personal information is somehow stored online and malicious actors can attempt to access it. Cybercrime is, unfortunately, part of our new reality and we need to begin acknowledging it and implementing practices to better protect ourselves in social networks and in our connected world.


Get the latest local and international news straight to your mobile phone for free: