In 2016, a University of Phoenix study revealed that two out of three U.S. adults were aware that their social media accounts had been hacked. Furthermore, a majority of adults limit what personal information they share.
But the hackers keep on coming.
While it’s great to see that the importance of online security and privacy is getting through, hackers will not be perturbed. Their entire game plan relies on finding gaps in the armor, and exploiting them for their own gain. We’ve got to stay one step ahead at all times.
It’s never too late to start taking control of your social network security.
Why Secure Your Social Media Accounts?
You know that the hackers are out there. They can do so much damage with your social media account. Just one reused password (leaked from various dumped databases), or a phishing email that you accidentally click on, and you’re snared, whether you know it or not.
The University of Phoenix study found many things. Here’s what’s important to us right now:
“Nearly two in three U.S. adults who have personal social media profiles say they are aware that their accounts have been hacked and 86 percent agree they limit the personal information they post due to the fear of it being accessed by hackers.”
Even with this awareness, a third of social media users are unaware of being hacked. And being aware of the problems isn’t the same as blocking them completely. One slip of the mind, a busy day at work, a family bereavement… it’s all a matter of timing.
So, it’s time to take this seriously. Let’s get your social media accounts secure for the New Year.
Before You Start: Unfriend Neglected Accounts!
Whatever social network you use, keeping tabs on which accounts are in use and which have been abandoned is important. Neglected or deserted accounts can be hijacked by scammers far more easily than an account that is regularly accessed.
Think about it this way: if you stopped using a social account, what information would a hacker find? Details of your friends, employers, family members… and of course, your own data. Personal information such as your birthday, where you live, and the things you like to do. Photos of you and your friends.
Anyone you’re friends with has a degree of access to the same information. Perhaps they don’t have the option to view detailed information about you, but anything they know of you offline may be mentioned. You’ll appear in their photos. Links might be shared with you by them.
All in all, it’s an avenue for scammers to get their hooks into you by posing as a friend online. You’ve no real way to tell if the account is being controlled by a friend or not, unless you call them on the phone or speak in person.
So, if an account suddenly comes back to life, treat it with suspicion at first. But it’s better to avoid this possibility altogether, and simply delete neglected accounts. What’s the worst that could happen? That you might be wrong?
Fine. Just re-friend the account once you’re certain!
Once you’ve sorted that problem out, it’s time to move onto the nuts and bolts of social account security. We’ve featured the three most popular social media services below. Use the steps in each to ensure your account security.
How to Secure Your Facebook Account
Just how massive is Facebook? Well, in the third quarter of 2017, Facebook reported an unparalleled 2.07 billion monthly active users.
Over the years, additional privacy and security features have been added. But before we take a look at how to tighten things up, just remember: Facebook might be free, but they’re making money out of you. Bearing in mind just how much they know about you, you might be less inclined to embrace Facebook as wholeheartedly in future.
Login to Facebook, open the menu, and you’ll find two key items: Security and Login and Privacy. Using these (and a couple of other options) you’ll be able to gain complete control of your Facebook account privacy. Our complete Facebook privacy guide will show you exactly what you need to do.
To get started, expand the Where you’re logged in view in Security and login. This will illustrate not only how much information Facebook records about you, but what information might be gathered by someone using your account. It’s a good idea to use the Log out of all sessions button to remove this data.
Once you’ve done that, it’s a very good idea to setup a physical security key to control access to your Facebook account. This ensures protection against login-based scams and hacks.
Finally, if you ever suspect your Facebook account has been hacked, it is vital that you do these four things immediately. If anything you’ve read so far has led you to wonder whether you really want a Facebook account, you might want to know how to delete it.
How to Secure Your Twitter Account
Compared to Facebook, Twitter is tiny, with just 330 million users in the same period. Unlike Facebook, many Twitter accounts are automated (more commonly known as “bots”) and many people have control of multiple accounts. As such, the real total could be far less.
This doesn’t mean that the risk of being hacked or scammed is any less real, however. You need to take the practice of securing your Twitter account seriously. Don’t just robotically do it — understand why you need to and what each step of the process means.
A key part of this is controlling the apps that you give access to. It only takes one bad app, or one dodgy developer, to be able to subvert access to your Twitter account. Solve this problem by disabling apps that you no longer use. Many services utilize a Twitter login to save time, and these should also be carefully administered.
Meanwhile, if you really like how Twitter works but aren’t keen on the risks, why not launch your own Twitter-like social network? This is possible thanks to Mastodon, and our tutorial will show you how to set it up.
How to Secure Your Instagram Account
As of April 2017, Instagram boasted an impressive 700 million users. Although some accounts are spam bots, most are controlled by people (or in the case of celebrity Instagram accounts, PR teams).
Photo sharing can be a risk, however. There is information that can be gleaned from photos alone, such as where you are, where you’ve been, who you’re with. All things you may prefer undesirables are not privy to. People have fallen for Instagram scams in the past and it’s likely they will in future. It even happens to tech-savvy users.
Want to keep your Instagram account secure? It’s very simple.
Open the Options menu to find the Change Password option, and select a password that is secure. For more privacy, meanwhile, you can flick the Private Account switch. While existing followers will remain, no new people can see your photos unless you give approval. If your children are using Instagram, this is a setting you should insist on them enabling. Comments can also be disabled, and automatic and manual filters enabled to limit the sort of language used by commenters.
Once secure, you’ll feel more comfortable making your Instagram movies unforgettable!
Don’t Just Go Private, Stay Private!
Everything you’ve read so far should give you everything you need to make your social media accounts more private. But you can go one step further and set up two-factor authentication for all of these accounts, and more.
This will introduce a new level of authentication into every sign-in you make. Although two-factor authentication (2FA) isn’t fool-proof, it’s currently the best option you have for securing accounts.
Finally, if you want to flip this on its head, take a look at our guide on how to get hacked on social media.
Have you been hacked on a social network? What happened, and how did you regain control of your account? Tell us below!