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10 Tips to Protect Yourself on Social Networks

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With the prevalence of mobile devices, more than ever, it’s easy for us to share our lives with the world. And yes, social networks are all about staying in touch with friends and family, and sharing events in your life, but perhaps it’s too easy to share information?

With just a few clicks, posts and messages, you could give away enough personal information to compromise your privacy and even open yourself up to identity theft. So that’s why it’s critical that you know how to protect yourself when using these sites. Here’s my top 10 list:

  1. Remember the Internet is permanent: Assume that once you put information on the site, it stays there forever. Even if you delete the account, you don’t know if someone has already printed/copied your text or photos off of it.
  2. Be selective when accepting a friend: Do you really know that their profile is real and not fake? Only “friend” people you know in the real world.
  3. Exercise caution when clicking on links: Even if they’re from friends. Hackers prey on social networks because you are more likely to click on something from your friends. Also be wary of offers with the word “free” in them, or ones that sound too good to be true, as they usually are.
  4. Manage your privacy settings: Make sure that you are only sharing information with friends and family and check them regularly in case there are any changes.
  5. Be aware of the fact that the information you share on one social network may be linked to another: For instance, a photo you post to Twitter may automatically post to your Facebook profile.
  6. Don’t reveal personal information: Be suspicious of anyone who asks for your personal information online and never share your home address, phone number, Social Security number, or other personal identifying information.
  7. Turn off the GPS function on your smartphone camera: If you plan to share images online, make sure that you turn off the GPS on your device to keep your exact location private.
  8. Don’t enable auto login: Make sure that you don’t have your apps set to automatically log you in and that you don’t have your computer’s browser “remember” your login and password. That way if someone does get access to your devices, they can’t automatically access your social sites.
  9. Change your passwords frequently: Choose hard-to-guess passwords that are at least eight characters long and a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols, and change them regularly. Also make sure you use different passwords for each account.
  10. Close old accounts that you don’t use anymore: Don’t risk leaving personal data in an old account, such as a MySpace page you haven’t used in years, or on an online dating site you no longer need. Instead, close the accounts you don’t use and delete as much personal information from them as possible.

Social networking is meant to be fun…let’s keep it that way by staying safe online.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! Disclosures.

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