Social media security best practices

Thanks to social media, never before have people been able to connect as quickly and as easily as they do now. In fact, CNBC worked out that global Facebook users have spent around 55 million years on the site since 2009.

However, as more people move to these parts of the Web, the chances of becoming the victim of a hack increase. The Better Business Bureau has determined that more than 600,000 Facebook profiles are hacked every single day

While that number should catch your attention, it doesn't mean you should delete all of your social media accounts. Rather, it's an indication that you need to understand the reality of the security situation you're currently facing. To that end, let's look at some of the top social media best practices that can help you stay safe online:

"More than 600,000 Facebook profiles are hacked every single day. "

Respect the password

We've discussed this topic in length before, but its importance bears repeating. A common mistake people make when setting up a social media profile is using a very simple password, thinking the site doesn't need to be as safe as, say, a bank account. This couldn't be further from the truth. 

Not only are the private messages contained within these social media accounts worth protecting, you also need to adequately protect your identity. Your Facebook or Twitter profile is considered an extension of yourself online, which can give hackers quite a lot of power over your friends and family. What's more, people often link their Facebook profiles with accounts from other sites. If you've done this, losing control of your Facebook could translate to a data breach of epic proportions.  

Don't post too much

Another mistake people make on social media sites is oversharing. The whole point of these accounts is to bring your life to a digital space, but the problem is people are often too trusting. Posting pictures of your toes in the sand of some foreign beach may make your friends jealous, but it also tells burglars you aren't at home. 

On top of that, hackers also comb these websites for the answers to security questions. You can have the strongest password in the world, but a cyber criminal might still be able to access your bank account if your first pet's name is readily available knowledge online. 

Dog names are generally bad security questions. Who knew such cuteness could be used against you?

Be wary of emails asking for login info

Finally, it's important to stay vigilant in terms of who you give your login credentials to. Hackers often employ phishing scams in order to bait victims into giving up their username and password to sites. In order to do this, criminals usually masquerade as the site that they're trying to access. 

To stop this, all you need to do is realize that social media sites will never ask for your login information via email. If they ever need to ask you for this, they will direct you to a legitimate site that will have adequate protection. Even so, if and when this happens to you, make sure to thoroughly check the URL to ensure the website is correct. If it doesn't match up, or if you just feel like something's off, make sure to contact the site's administration immediately. 

When it comes to social media – just like every other part of life – you're as safe as you want to be. Following these steps can certainly increase your level of security, but at the end of the day, you need to rely on yourself. Paying attention and recognizing when something doesn't feel right are the best ways to ensure the safety of both your account and your personal data. 

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How to spot a phishing email

With more services moving online every day, phishing is becoming a major threat to cyber security. This hacking technique involves sending out a massive number of emails in an attempt to trick people into either giving up sensitive information or clicking a piece of malware meant to infect the victim's computer. In fact, this problem has become so widespread that phishing attacks focused on W-2 tax data have caused the loss of around $ 2.3 billion within the last three years, according to CSO contributor Steve Ragan. 

These scams may be a drain on both the economy and human decency, but they aren't terribly hard to spot if you know what to look for. So, what does a phishing email look like?

"Quite a lot of users don't thoroughly check who sent the messages they receive."

The sender's email address smells phishy

If you've ever received a legitimate email concerning private information, you might have noticed that the sender's address was very official. However, quite a lot of users don't thoroughly check who sent the messages they receive. Considering The Radicati Group found that the average person sent and received around 93 emails per day in 2015, it's often very easy to get overwhelmed and skip this verification. 

This kind of behavior is exactly what phishers are looking to exploit. These criminals often make addresses that look like received messages came from official sources. While a legitimate email from an institution may be from "name@organization.com," a scammer might send you something like "name@orgamization.com." The average person might not see the "m" in that second address, and would trust the nefarious sender. If you do notice such a discrepancy, make sure to report it to the company that is being impersonated. 

The URL doesn't match

One of the biggest mistakes people make after running into a phishing scam is blindly clicking on a link contained in the email. The problem with this is that hackers very often hide malware by linking it to text that spells out a legitimate URL. What's more, some criminals even build entire websites to look like login pages for real websites, attempting to gain your credentials. 

Malware is often hidden in phishing scams. Hackers often try to conceal malware in real-looking URLs.

Although these individuals are getting exceedingly good at hiding their malicious intents, there's a very easy way to ensure the link you're clicking is what it says it is. Most email providers allow you to hover your pointer over the link to get a preview of the URL. For Gmail, this is in the bottom left of the screen. If this URL doesn't match up with the one in the message, don't click it.

Grammar/spelling mistakes

This is pretty simple, but it's also a major point to check. When an organization sends you an email, even if it's personalized and not automated, there's very little chance it's going to have spelling or grammar mistakes. Companies pride themselves on their customer-facing image, and one of the easiest ways to wreck that is to make your business seem disorganized through simple language errors.

Hackers, on the other hand, don't care about this as much as businesses do. What's more, many cyber criminals are from outside the United States and don't always understand proper English grammar. Seeing these kinds of mistakes isn't concrete proof of phishing, but it should certainly raise a red flag. 

Trust your gut and have a backup plan

There are 1,001 other tricks hackers pull in order to convince you that they're legitimate, and the evolving nature of cyber crime means a full list will never be made. But at the end of the day, you need to be able to trust your instincts. If your bank has never asked you for your login credentials through email before, you should question why they've started now. What's more, no one in real life has ever offered you $ 10 million in exchange for a small amount for banking fees, so why should you trust someone asking for the same on the Internet?

That said, it's also a good idea to invest in cyber security software. Phishing emails are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and there's always the chance that a friend or family member falls for a scam while using your device. This kind of software often has anti-phishing support, giving you another line of defense against hackers.  

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