I remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach upon returning to our vandalized minivan in the city Zoo parking lot after a long, fun-filled family day enjoying the animals. My new phone was stolen (and I do not upgrade often!) among other things, and since that day an extra level of safety precaution is always taken when locking and parking our vehicles. Physical losses like stolen personal belongings (phones, purses, wallets) can be tangibly felt, and there is an immediate urgency to do something about them. However, are we treating potential cyber losses with equal resolve? Within the past twelve months, social media giants have fallen victim to serious security breaches. Twitter sent out an advisory recommending their 330 million users take fast action to change their passwords. This past fall, 50 million+ Facebook users were alerted that their accounts had been hacked. Instagram, Snapchat and others have fared no better. With cybercriminals succeeding in penetrating the security walls of social media Goliaths, shouldn’t individuals and organizations stay informed and diligent to minimize social media losses? Below are a few quick social media tips to consider.
Carefully evaluate your Profile. Prohibit access to your profile for everyone except your “friends” (and I urge you to consider the trustworthiness of those you call friends.) Additionally, you can limit social media losses by reviewing the personal information you add to your profile. Birth date, home address, work and education, family/marital status and email address don’t belong. Wouldn’t your true “friends” already know this stuff?
Use absolute discretion when posting or uploading content. This is a good safeguard of protecting yourself from yourself (the “what was I thinking” moments). Hackers will blackmail, extort and seek to ruin your reputation by using your own posts and uploads against you. We all make mistakes.
Implement complex passwords. Passwords must be long (over 12 characters) and complex (mixing upper- and lower-case letters with numbers and special characters). Furthermore, it’s foolish to repeatedly use the same password for multiple login accounts. Cybercriminals are scavengers and will use these passwords to login to other personal accounts. Hackers will also mislead your friends into following dubious accounts or bait them into opening phishing links.
Set strong privacy settings. Social media sites update settings often so re-visit your privacy settings regularly.
A smart network-wide security strategy would to consider blocking these sites altogether or at least blocking social media email so that there is no email address directly tied between the user (and their posts) and the church.
Identity and information theft are actual threats, both in the real-world and cyber-world. And just like you would report a suspicious person roaming the parking lot, it’s also equally important to report suspicious online activity.
I am not suggesting that you don’t utilize or visit social media sites. (I’ve been back to the zoo many times with our family since our car was broken in to.) But I am strongly suggesting that you amp up your security awareness regarding social media losses, just as I did in parking lots. This is a lesson better learned proactively rather than reactively.