But despite its proliferation and usefulness, there's no denying that social media isn't always the safest. With all the information you're putting out there about yourself, you can—if you're not careful—put yourself at risk of identity theft, physical harm or a whole slew of other problems
1.) Be Careful with Your NameWhen you're setting up a social networking account, one of the first things they want to know is your name. In fact, some sites such as Facebook go so far to enforce a real-name policy that they'll kick you off the site if they find you using a fake name. But as soon as you tie all that information on your social media account to your name, it makes it very easy for others to find.
Whether it's third-party advertising companies or potential employers, you may not want the whole world to know about that Saturday night you had (it could cost you your job!), but even if you don't do anything that you want to keep private, it can still be a good idea to come up with a pseudonym for your online activities.
2.) Don't Share too Much InformationWhen you're creating or updating your profile, make sure you're not putting too much information out there about yourself. Most of us realize that anything that someone could use to hack your identity is off limits, but what does that really mean? Obviously, the big one is your social security number, as well as things such as your PINs and credit card information.
Also important though are your birthdate, your hometown, your work history, and any other details that could help an identity thief fill out loan applications or guess a security question. Not only that, but you should be careful about telling your upcoming vacation plans to everyone you're connected to; doing so waves a huge flag to invite burglars to your home in your absence!
3.) Change Your Privacy SettingsNot enough people take the time to learn about and modify their privacy settings on their social media accounts. But these days, privacy settings are increasingly more finely tuned, and that's meant to help you. If you don't want your profile to show up on internet search engines, look into hiding it.
If you don't want a picture to be visible to the public, change your settings so that only your friends—or even just select groups of your friends—can see it. Of course, changing your privacy settings doesn't mean that information isn't out there if someone really wants to get access to it, and the social media companies themselves have access to all of your information still, but it can help a little. If you're not sure what to do, look it up.
4.) Only “Friend” Your FriendsHaving thousands of friends linked to your social media account may make you feel popular, and you might think it's no harm to accept the friend request from that guy you've never met who is friends with your friend. Or you might actively go out and look for people who are friends with your friends. After all, it's social media, right?
Why not make some new friends? But if you're sharing information with people you don't know in person, you really have no idea just who you're sharing information with. It could be that the account is only a mask for a criminal looking to gather information about you, even if the account seems legitimate enough. Remember, hackers and identity thieves are masters of deception.
5.) Use a VPNIt's not just the information that you voluntarily put out there that you have to worry about though! Every time you access a social media site (or any other site, for that matter), your computer sends out packets of information that tell the site details about your browsing history, passwords, and other sensitive data. Your password, obviously, is a necessary part of your interaction with the site, but a lot of the information your computer shares isn't necessary to your browsing experience.
A VPN will make sure that all the information your computer sends is hidden in a tunnel between your computer and the site server so that you don't have to worry about it all being hacked en route. It's becoming increasingly more common to use a VPN though, and hackers are always trying to come up with ways to get around precautionary measures, so make sure you use thestrongest VPN available.
Although social networking has become a common and valuable communication tool in many of our lives, we don't always think about the risks involved with putting all of our personal details out there. But if you put too much information out there, you leave yourself open to a variety of attacks. Instead, take the necessary precautions to safeguard your identity and your personal safety.
This post is a contribution from Cassie Philips. Cassie is a technology and security enthusiast who enjoys helping others stay safe on social media.
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