I remember when hacked social media accounts used to be a minor inconvenience. You would have to contact the staff at the platform, wait for verification to be authenticated, and then change your passwords. But all in all, it wasn’t too big of a deal. And it didn’t happen so often … at least not that it made big news media outlets too often.
Oh boy, has that changed.
Social media accounts contain your entire life in a single profile. Photos, information, messages, special announcements, interactions from across the world … it is all there. And now we have the further threat of financial information attached to the account. Anyone who has ever set Facebook ads or bought a gift card from the network is potentially at risk.
Even those who have never given their card information can really be hurt by a hack. They might find out enough information to answer secret questions. They could contact people on your friends list and ask for money for an “emergency” pretending to be you. Or they could post links to phishing sites that will get them into your friends accounts next.
With the rising threat from social media hacks, you need to make sure your own is protected adequately. Here is how to protect yourself, and your data.
Secure Social Media Accounts by …
Making Sure Your Password Is Secure
How long would it take for a hacking program to figure out your password? The answer may be a lot shorter than you ever imagined, as in minutes or hours. You need to make sure the passwords you use are secure, and would take a very long, unrealistic amount of time to figure out.
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There are several tools out there for this purpose. I personally use How Secure Is My Password?, and am happy to report the minimum time for all of my social passwords clock in at 25,000 years to break. How do yours measure up?
A secure password is going to have upper and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers. Or they will be an entire phrase, including capitalization and punctuation. For example, the phrase, “Can’ttouchthis!” as a password comes up to 824 billion years to crack. Thanks, MC Hammer!
For bloggers, FSG recommends a few plugins (including Login Security Solution, Better WP security, etc.) to manage your WordPress plugin and security better.
Regularly Changing Your Password
No matter how secure the password, you shouldn’t keep it for too long. I will admit to being pretty lax about this. I change my passwords once a year, when really it should be at least every few months.
By changing your passwords, even a little, you are making it harder and harder for someone to break into your account. If you are lazy like me you can just switch out the capitalization or numbers a bit and call it good.
Not Recycling Passwords Across Sites
One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to password security is using an otherwise good password (or a bad one) across multiple sites. If someone manages to, say, break into your Pinterest account, they aren’t going to take the time to try and use the same password elsewhere.
So use unique passwords. If you worry about keeping track of them, try Passpack or Lastpass, password managers that will hold all those passwords for you in a safe, encrypted place.
If you are saving your social media data in a file, even without including passwords there (I usually maintain a spreadsheet of all my social media accounts I am keeping active), make sure your file is password protected and hidden. Here’s a good idea to store this data in your Dropbox securely. It’s essential to keep the list of your social media entities privately, especially if you maintain several online personas.
Getting Suspicious Activity Alerts The Moment They Happen
You can get alerts from your social media accounts when people log in from new places or devices. This is a feature in the Security section of your settings. You will get a text or email alert based on your specifications, so you will know the moment something happens.
This will also send a suspicious activity alert if your account is locked down due to excessive attempts to put in the wrong password. If this happens, use their offered secondary security authentication, such as mobile codes and trusted contacts, in order to protect your account.
- Facebook: Suspicious Emails, Messages & Notifications
- Twitter: Safe Tweeting
- Gmail: Last account activity
Keep and eye on your privacy settings too and make sure you know and trust all the installed apps.
Being Careful with Public Computers or Places
How many times have you seen people posting screencaps of their friends getting status updates from Apple Store employees, random strangers in the library, and Uber drivers on their Facebook accounts? This is the risk you run when you log into your account somewhere public and don’t remember to log out again before you leave.
But there is an additional threat, which is hijacking data through WiFi signals. So unless you are using a VPN (virtual private network), you may want to rethink that social media break at Starbucks.
Not Clicking Just Any Links
This cannot be stressed enough: don’t click random links left on your wall or on friend’s status messages!
There is a reason Facebook provides a giant photo next to uploaded links, and Twitter and Pinterest often block suspicious URL’s from being clickable. It is due to the threat from phishers.
Your best friend posts a link with the message, “Oh my God [your name here], is this really you?!” Well, guess what, that isn’t actually a scandalous photo or video of you. It is a phishing link that has now hacked your account in seconds. So avoid the temptation.
Have any tips to go on this list?
Social Profile Security Illustration via Shutterstock