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Social Media Security: Follow Basic Safety Rules to Protect Your Home from Intruders

Social Media Security: Follow Basic Safety Rules to Protect Your Home from Intruders
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By James Lint
Senior Editor for InCyberDefense and Contributor, In Homeland Security

Although it’s fun to post pictures and messages on social media about trips you take, you are also vulnerable to household theft at the same time. For example, imagine that you take your family on a week-long trip.

Your kids post a message on Facebook that they are happy to be on vacation. Your wife takes an interesting picture at a rest stop and posts it to her Instagram account. Also, you send out a tweet upon arrival that you are at the convention hotel and plan to see your work friends tonight.

Unfortunately, all of this information tells a social media-savvy thief that your house is empty. As a result, you might receive a late-night text from your home security company that your home alarm went off, but you missed the text because you were away.

Social Media Gives Thieves Good Data about Houses to Target

We give social media a lot of information. We tell thieves when we are not home. We tell thieves when we leave, when we hit rest stops, when we go to airports and when we go to parties.

But we need to maintain some privacy to prevent others from misusing social media information. Consider the following questions:

  • Do you know your current privacy settings on each of your social media accounts?
  • Do you know the last time each of your social media sites changed its privacy settings?
  • Do you know if your privacy setting really did port over to your new phone?
  • Are you sure that no unintended visitors are looking at your sites and content?

Compromise between Social Media Security and Entertainment

It takes work to maintain a balance between your privacy and the public nature of social media. Here are some potential solutions:

Solution #1: Wait Until You’re Back Home

Take your pictures, write your content, and place the written content in a Word doc or Google Docs file. Then, post the images and written content AFTER you get home. While some people will say this defeats the purpose of social media, it is a safer way to protect your home and belongings.

Another possible option is to post only if you’re a short distance from home. For example, if you’re only out for the day and it’s a quick 20-minute drive to get home, it might be an acceptable risk to post from your location just before you leave.

Solution #2: Use a Social Media Management Tool such as Hootsuite or Buffer

There are online tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer that allow you to schedule social media posts at times you prefer. Both of these tools have free plans for individuals. Also, both tools are available as mobile apps.

Solution #3: Ask Social Media Companies to Add in a ‘Send Later’ Feature to Personal Accounts

Ideally, social media companies should build in a “send later” feature into their platforms. This feature does not currently exist for personal accounts (although Facebook administrators can pre-schedule posts to appear on pages for an organization).

The ability to send posts at a later time would be a useful social media security feature for personal accounts. In addition, it would be a proactive measure that would provide security even if your privacy settings had not been recently updated.

Consider sending a message to your social media companies’ feedback email or “contact us” pages. This information could be easily found through a Google search.

Stay secure!

Get started on your cybersecurity degree at American Military University.

About the Author

James R. Lint recently retired as the (GG-15) civilian director for intelligence and security, G2, U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command. James has been involved in cyberespionage events from just after the turn of the century in Korea supporting 1st Signal Brigade to the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis as the first government cyber intelligence analyst. He has 38 years of experience in military intelligence with the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, government contracting and civil service.

Additionally, James started the Lint Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit charity that recently awarded its 49th scholarship for national security students and professionals. James was also elected as the 2015 national vice president for the Military Intelligence Corps Association. He has also served in the Department of Energy’s S&S Security Office after his active military career in the Marine Corps for seven years and 14 years in the Army. His military assignments include South Korea, Germany and Cuba, in addition to numerous CONUS locations. In 2017, he was appointed to the position of Adjutant for The American Legion, China Post 1. James has authored a book published in 2013, “Leadership and Management Lessons Learned,” a book published in 2016 “8 Eyes on Korea, A Travel Perspective of Seoul, Korea,” and a new book in 2017 Secrets to Getting a Federal Government Job.”

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