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Helder Machado

President/CEO of Machado Consulting

Being Smart & Social: The Importance of Cyber Hygiene on Social Media

Blog post originally published on April 10, 2019 as "Social Media Users Should Consider Their Personal Information". Updated September 27, 2019.

Social media has completely changed the dynamics of how people communicate with one another. In an age where a picture can appear on thousands of devices all over the world, privacy has become a major concern for anyone using social media. According to the Pew Research Center, 72% of Americans over 18-years-old use some social media platform. 

In relation to this increase, the number of cybercriminals looking to steal money, information, and identities has also risen. Privacy concerns are prevalent in today’s social media environment, and users must be aware of how their data is vulnerable.  For most people social media is a place where they can share their civil and political views, personal health information, learn scientific information, engage in job, familial, and society-related activities, and where they get most of their news. Between social media and online commerce, more personally identifiable information is shared with corporations than you would ever knowingly share with your best friends. Think about that.

As social media usage increases, (we currently spend 30% of our online hours on social media), we are sharing more and more personal information. App developers create more third party integrations that require you to share your personal info in order to use their service. But the more this happens, the easier it is to lose control over who has your data, how their storing it, and how they're monetizing it.

Why Stay on Social Media If It Makes You Vulnerable?

If you are at the beach and a lifeguard told you that they saw sharks in the water, would you wade around waist-deep trying to spot the sharks? No chance. We constantly warn people to protect their personal information, and they consistently don’t. Why? Because we all tend to think of data and privacy in small, targeted ways, but we now know that data breaches and big data gathering happen to anyone and everyone. While personally motivated cyber attacks occur, it's much more likely that your privacy will be compromised by a larger scale attack.

Here are some great tips for staying safe on social media, as posted by the Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Division, for more detailed information, check out the CISA website.

  • Limit the amount of personal information you post 
  • Remember that the internet is a public resource 
  • Be wary of strangers 
  • Be skeptical 
  • Evaluate your settings 
  • Be wary of third-party applications 
  • Use strong passwords
  • Check privacy policies 
  • Keep software, particularly your web browser, up to date 
  • Use and maintain anti-virus software 

Remember, less is more on social. Sure, your "Likes" may establish your online personality, style and preferences, but you might find yourself the target of more than just savvy marketers.

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