The Everyday Home: Using social media safely

Sonya McDaniel
Extension educator, FCS/CED

It is easy to ignore cyber security, to not take proactive steps and to think “That won’t happen to me.” Many people, however, have learned – after their accounts have been breached, data compromised and, even worse, their identity stolen – it is much easier to take steps to protect yourself before something happens than deal with the consequences of simply not caring. October is National Cyber Security Awareness month and it is an excellent opportunity to review our social media activity to consider ways we can improve our security and safety.

Being safe online does not have to be a huge hassle – it really only involves one minor item: Think before you take action. In this article, I will dive into this theme and highlight steps you can take to better protect yourself while using social media.

Think before you post!

This is always a good recommendation when using social media! Consider these questions before you submit that post.

Do I need to post this right now or can it wait? Consider how your post may be giving criminals information about your whereabouts, especially when you will be away for an extended time. While you are on a vacation (or anywhere else that is not home), posting photos, status updates, or, even worse, your location could give thieves enough information to know when to break into your home. A much better choice is to wait and share any photos of your dream vacation when you are safely home.

Am I giving away any of my personal information? You see it on Facebook: funny and fun quizzes begging you to respond. They usually include something along the lines of “here are my answers copy this and repost with your answers.” These usually don’t ask direct questions like “what is your social security number” they usually ask many indirect questions like “what month were you born in”, “what was your high school mascot”, or “what is your mother’s maiden name?” Consider how you use this information with security questions when setting your passwords. Thieves could get enough information about you to reset a password with information from your answers!

Do I need to post my child’s game schedule? Similar to #1, above, while it can be a great idea to give your children’s schedule to immediate or close family friends, it is probably something you don’t want to potentially share with the whole world. I realize how proud you may be of your child, but the safety of your family is more important. Go to the games, have fun, and take photos – just post them at the appropriate time.

Do I want this post to be online and associated with my name for the rest of time? Even if you delete a post there is a good chance that a copy of it is digitally saved somewhere. It might have been a friend who thought it was funny and took a screen shot or someone with more sinister plans for using it in the future. If you are not sure, wait 24 hours before you post it – enough time to consider if you really want it on the internet.

Think before you click!

When you are on a roll and having fun while on a computer, it is easy to get ahead of yourself and do something you will regret later. This is another great opportunity to take a few seconds to think before you act.

Do I know this person and should I add them as a friend? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media applications can be great tools to reunite or stay up-to-date with friends and family from all over the world. It is also very easy to accept invitations from almost anyone as a friend – even if you do not know them. It is really easy to click that “Accept” button especially when they might already be friends with some of your current contacts. A really good rule of thumb: if you don’t know someone in person, don’t add them on social media.

Do I really need to click on the link in this post to find out my horoscope, watch a video or play that online game? While it is a very simple to click on a link posted by one of your friends, it can also be dangerous: your computer could get a browser hijack or the link could download malicious software to your computer. When this happens, it is not always as easy as rebooting your computer or uninstalling a program to make a computer problem go away. Ransomware is an example: Clicking the link may result in all the data on your computer becoming encrypted and potentially lost.

Think about security!

Last but probably most importantly, take some time to review the security of your social media security settings. Are your posts visible to just your friends on Social Media or are they viewable by everyone in the world? Is your birthday, anniversary and other important personal information available to everyone or just your friends?

Social media and cyber security

Social media is a great and useful tool, but we should use it safely and think about how our actions affects our safety and security. Cyber Security Awareness Month gives us the opportunity to think and to make the needed adjustments to better protect not only ourselves but safely communicate with the people we love.

Links for more information

https://cybersecurity.ok.gov/content/think-you-click-staying-safe-social-media

https://www.cisa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/NCSAM_SocialMediaCybersecurity_2020.pdf

https://home.sophos.com/en-us/security-news/2020/social-media-and-cybersecurity.aspx

https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-security-for-business/

Source: https://spotlight.okstate.edu/dasnrit/2021/10/04/using-social-media-safely/

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