With social media playing such a large part of our lives, as well as storing delicate personal information, it’s no wonder that cyber criminals use these platforms to launch online attacks on naive users.
There are numerous ways that cyber criminals will target vulnerable accounts. These include:
- Planting links that contain malicious software or malware
- Stealing authentication credentials upon login
- Sending fraudulent emails asking users to change their password when unnecessary
- Browsing for accounts that display personal data
- Creating fake profiles to lure vulnerable users into problematic situations
- Using social media to exchange criminal ideas or trade stolen information.
An estimate by Facebook calculates that anywhere up to 100 million of its monthly active accounts are fakes, with around 10 million of those suspected of being untrustworthy.
Even the free messaging service WhatsApp is starting to attract fraudulent activity; a recent flurry of fake messages asking users to install a ‘WhatsApp Gold’ upgrade was actually full of malware.
Twitter and Instagram are less likely used as fraudulent communication channels but they still have severe problems with fake accounts being set up – something seemingly very hard to prevent from happening.
Ways to Protect Yourself
Despite all of the potential doom and gloom surrounding social media use, most accounts aren’t affected by cyber crime. There are ways to minimise the threat, as long as you’re aware of the warning signs.
Perhaps the best advice for all social media users is to remain as cautious as possible when online. If an unfamiliar account tries to add you as a friend or make contact, they’re almost certainly going to be doing so for the wrong reasons.
If unsure, check out their profile for clues of their authenticity – spam accounts usually leave obvious signs that give the game away. If anyone asks for money or for your personal information, simply delete and report them.
Although it can be a bit of extra hassle, changing your password on a regular basis is an effective way of securing your social media accounts. You could also use a designated Password Manager software tool – this will create strong passwords on your behalf and encrypt them for additional security.
Of course, many of us choose the easy option of using the same password for all our online platforms – this can be a recipe for disaster. Try and use separate passwords for every account you have, writing them down so you don’t forget.
Ensure your PC or smartphone has the latest anti-virus and anti-malware software installed. You should also perform regular scans and frequently check for updates so your system stays protected against the latest cyber crime techniques. A good anti-virus program will detect threats and squash them immediately so you stay safe.
Manage Privacy Settings
Every social media platform will have personal privacy settings within your account section. They allow you to control who exactly sees the content you post, alongside the personal information on your page. You should also restrict incoming messages so that only familiar contacts can get in touch.
Now that your social media accounts are secure, make sure your phone is safe from viruses and hackers too by checking out our 10 recommended security apps.