Protecting Your Privacy: 4 Social Media Security Risks You Need to Avoid

On average, we spend 2.5 hours on social media every single day. Browsing through X, posting on Instagram, and scrolling through TikTok make up a huge chunk of our overall screen time.

As a result, it’s hardly surprising that cyber criminals increasingly target us on social networks. According to recent statistics, hackers make an annual $3.25 billion off social media scams alone. And that number is set to rise.

Already, 1 in 10 people becomes a victim of identity theft every year, according to data published in a new book by internet security expert Hari Ravichandran.

But what can you do to protect yourself? Here are four social media security risks you need to avoid to stay safe.

Neglecting 2FA and Password Hygiene

First off, you need to step up your password game when it comes to logging in to your social profiles.

Yes, it sounds like an absolute no-brainer, but most successful hacks - a whopping 80% – are due to weak passwords. In fact, statistics show that the majority of people still re-use passwords across platforms or use their name or birthdate.

Plus, only a fraction of users have activated two-factor authentication (2FA) on their profiles, even though most social media networks now offer it.

For instance, according to the latest statistics released by X, only 2.6% of accounts used 2FA.

To protect your accounts, you need to choose complex passwords and use 2FA. It will take you thirty seconds longer to log in, but goes a long way in keeping hackers out.

Oversharing Personal Information

Next up, another common social media security risk is oversharing personal information.

On any network on which you use your real name, publicly sharing your information can be dangerous. The reason for this is that it allows cyber criminals to craft custom-tailored phishing scams known as spear phishing.

You wouldn’t download an attachment from a ‘Nigerian prince’ who’s ‘stranded at an airport’. But you probably would click on a link a supposed colleague from work sends you, asking you to contribute to the birthday present for Sharon from accounting. Information to craft a scam message like this is easy to find if you and the people in your network make personal information public.

To stay safe, make sure that only your contacts can see your account details, and encourage all your connections to do the same.

Imposter Accounts

Another common security risk on social media are imposter accounts. Especially on LinkedIn, cybercriminals set up fake company accounts and then reach out to people, posing as (potential) employers or industry experts.

These bogus accounts can look shockingly real, with several hundred connections and plenty of skill endorsements. They reach out to users and fake a conversation with the aim of extracting sensitive information or tricking them into installing malware.

To protect yourself, it’s essential to learn to identify these fake accounts and to stay on your guard if someone you don’t know suddenly reaches out to you.

Malicious Third-Party Apps

Finally, another security risk social media users need to be aware of are malicious third-party apps.

These apps promise to add additional functionalities to your social media profiles, for instance to increase your likes or follower accounts. In reality, though, they trick you into sharing personal information that is then passed on for cyber criminals to exploit. This has become so common that many social networks, including Instagram, explicitly warn against these apps.

Fortunately, this is a risk that’s easy to avoid. Steer clear of dubious third-party apps, and think twice before giving any app access to your social media accounts.

The Bottom Line

Staying safe from cyber crime on social media is increasingly becoming a challenge.

However, by staying aware of the social media security risks outlined above, you’ll be well on your way. Secure your passwords and activate 2FA, set your profiles to private, be on your guard about outreach from strange accounts, and avoid third-party apps.

These measures will help you protect yourself, and frustrate hackers.
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