October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM). It was started by the National Cyber Security Division within the Department of Homeland Security and the nonprofit National Cyber Security Alliance in 2004 to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity all year long. Initially it was focused on keeping antivirus programs up to date, backing up data, and adopting better practices with email, this year’s message is putting the spotlight on how we use social media.
The theme of NCSAM this year is to “Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT,” and part of that is to make sure that we update the privacy settings on social media. All too often these settings on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have a default that favors the social media companies rather than the users. Users should make sure these companies aren’t sharing your personal information and that it isn’t being provided to third parties without your consent.
Don’t Over Share
Personal information isn’t just shared by the social media companies however, and NCSAM is also a time to remember that over sharing on social media can be a serious problem.
In fact, one of the biggest problems people make with social media is a desire to connect with seemingly the entire world. Part of the problem is that we’re so accustomed to seeing photos and video blogs from influencers and celebrities that we also feel the need to broadcast personal information.
Of course many users feel safe because they’re only sharing to their “friends” and “followers” – but who exactly are these people? Social media has created a type of faux connections with people we really don’t know. In other words, just because some has “friended” you on Facebook or follows you on Twitter doesn’t mean they’re actually your friend.
Far from it – hackers can friend you to learn personal information about you, and worse, can use that information against you.
“This is a common way that celebrities get hacked as passwords are often derived from pets’ names, favorite foods or other personal information,” warned Matthew Hutchinson, vice president at WhiteHat Security. “Public personal data also increases your risk for identity theft.”
Smart Social Media Practices When Traveling
Even sharing the wrong photos at the wrong time could open you up to a world of problems.
For those who are going on a dream vacation there is certainly the temptation to post videos from a fabulous destination, but this is also a broadcast to the world that you’re away from home!
“Over sharing online can have both digital and physical consequences, particularly when you travel,” said Hutchinson.
“Posting your vacation plans in advance or during your trip, even on seemingly private social media accounts, can put your home and belongings at risk,” added Hutchinson. “If malicious users stumble across the information and know where you live, or are cyber savvy enough to snoop and find out, they could plan a break-in and steal from you while you’re out of town.”
Social media can put individuals in danger in other ways as well.
“When you’re on the move in a foreign country or anywhere in the world, resist ‘checking in’ on social media applications,” advised Hutchinson. “This could make it really easy for individuals to find and follow you in person. The simplest solution is to turn off your geo-location services wherever possible.”
Acting paranoid while traveling can take some of the magic out of that getaway, but it can help ensure that you get home safe and sound.
Instead of broadcasting your whereabouts, Hutchinson advised that everyone pretend they’re at a hacker convention such as DefCon or Black Hat – or put more simply travel like a would-be spy. Don’t over share because as the World War II propaganda posters warned, “Loose lips can sink ships.”
Today over sharing while traveling can lead to robbery, identity theft or worse.
Watch the Connections
Your airport flight connections are not the only ones you need to keep tabs on when you’re on the go. Whether connecting online with your laptop, tablet or PC you should use best practices as well.
“When connected to the Internet using public WiFi at restaurants, airports, etc., don’t visit sensitive sites, like your banking website for instance, and always use a VPN to avoid any snooping or man-in-the-middle attacks,” added Hutchinson.
While all of this may sound rather anti-social, the truth is that hackers look for low hanging fruit and easy targets. Common sense and a bit of paranoia online can go a long way towards not putting a target on your Facebook profile.