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Staying Safe & Secure On Social Media As Cybercrime Increases

Social media for some is a breakaway from the real world and an online seesaw of information, digital content, and media that they can enjoy and immerse themself in. Our...

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This story originally appeared on ValueWalk

Social media for some is a breakaway from the real world and an online seesaw of information, digital content, and media that they can enjoy and immerse themself in. Our hyper-digital world has seen social media grow from being small social networking sites that barely received one million site visits per day, to a global network of more than 4.55 billion daily users.

geralt / Pixabay - Valuewalk

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Today, social media is more than just connecting with friends and family, or even browsing through millions of pages of content - it's become a billion-dollar industry of news media, information, and now more recently, a playing field for cybercriminals.

We've been somewhat reluctant in recent years to think much over a possible cybersecurity threat, or our social media accounts being hacked. Overall, we're just ordinary social media users, and not perhaps a high-profile individual that won't become an easy target, right?

That's where we've been missing the bigger picture. The latest insight revealed that more than 60 million Americans are being impacted by identity theft, with an increase of 54% in data breaches as of 2019, and the numbers are only getting more severe.

While we may think that our personal information and data are properly secured on our mobile devices, seeing as it's not directly linked to any social media apps; it's not quite what you may think. In April 2021, an incident involving the social media powerhouse Facebook, now known as Meta, saw more than 533 million user details being scraped, and publicly given away on a hacking forum.

Incidents like these are only looking to become more common, as businesses and individuals are now making more and more use of digital platforms and apps as an effective tool for communication, and perhaps work.

With so much to understand, while also trying to keep ourselves safe and protected online, we've looked at some safety tips you can follow to protect your personal information and data on social media and your mobile device.

What Are The Signs That Your Phone Has Been Hacked?

Before we can dive into the various ways you can protect your mobile device and social media information, let's have a quick look at the signs your mobile device has been infiltrated.

Webpages Don't look the same

Although it may be that Google or Safari will change the layout of their webpages, hackers can infiltrate your phone by using malware as a proxy to redirect you to a different webpage than what you initially clicked.

Unknown Texts and Phone Calls

It's not entirely possible for someone to hack your mobile device via a phone call, but unknown text messages or even Direct Messages on social media platforms that contain external links can create an open door for hackers to get onboard your device.

Mobile Devices Lag

Sometimes you may experience that your smartphone is running a lot slower than it used to, even though you still have an abundance of storage space available. Perhaps your web browser is loading a lot slower, or apps crash while you're using it? These are all indications that malware is cluttering your mobile devices' bandwidth.

Connectivity Issues

Service connection problems can occur on the regular, especially if you're in a remote or rural area where cell service may be limited. In a high usage area, with enough connection points, and still struggling to get online might be an indication that there is a possibility that your phone has been hacked.

The best thing to do is to contact your service provider to find out whether connection issues have been more common in recent weeks, or if it's a vault on your side.

An Unusual Amount of Pop-Ups

Suspicious ads and links are becoming more common on your web browser, or apps? It's advised to never click any pop-up ads or links, as this may launch adware onto your device that can infiltrate your phone's software.

Mobile Apps Stop Working Properly

With so many different mobile apps freely available, sometimes it's possible that a device can be hacked via an app or third-party advertisers. It's again advised to not click any pop-up ads or links that may appear in the app. If you notice that an app has not been working properly in the last few weeks, you should consider clearing your phone of any unused apps.

8 Tips For Staying Safe On Social Media

Create Strong Passwords

Being able to generate complicated passwords is the very first line of defense you have that can help protect your data and information. A strong password should contain more than just the usual number, or a few letters - passwords should be complicated to break down.

Using weak and mundane passwords, such as first or last names, birth dates, or even a generic sequence number leaves your social media profiles wide open for anyone.

As of 2020, more than 300 billion passwords require protection online, as more social platforms and websites become active online. Digital products are vulnerable to cyber attacks at any given moment, and if your first line of protection is not secure enough, you open the backdoor for cybercriminals to browse through your personal data, and private information.

Active Two-Factor Authentication

More and more apps, especially social media platforms are now making use of two-factor authentication (2FA) as a way to increase security measures for users. 2FA offers an additional layer of protection, whereby a generic code or pin is sent to your device via text message when you try to log into a social media account.

When activating this feature, only you will receive a unique code or pin sent directly to the mobile number associated with your social media profile.

2FA has become one of the ways you can monitor the activity of your social media accounts, to see whether another device or person is trying to log into your account without your consent, or knowledge. It's a good idea to activate this feature as soon as you create a new profile or download apps.

Log Out of Social Media Apps

This is not something any of us regularly do, but when using your mobile device, most of your social media apps are permanently logged in for quick access. This might give you added convenience if you're quickly looking to search for something, or wanting to receive up-to-date notifications about a specific account or person.

Yet, it remains an open avenue for cybercriminals or hackers to infiltrate your phone's data or information. With social media apps being constantly logged in, it's possible that clicking a suspicious link or ad on social media could launch adware onto your device.

Being logged in 24/7 also means that in case you forget to lock your phone, nearly any person can access your social media apps without your knowledge or consent. This could lead to spreading misinformation about a certain topic or person, which in the long run can become a major hassle to resolve.

Have Different Passwords

With so many social media apps, and platforms all requiring a new password every time you sign up, or log in, having to remember them all can be a major challenge. Using the same password for every single app or platform is not the smartest choice, and experts suggest that you use a different password for each platform or site you frequently use.

Yes, it does make it a lot more difficult to remember which password is used for what site, but newer devices will be able to automatically store your passwords in your settings if you activate that specific feature.

This means that you'll be able to have numerous passwords, all different, but still stored and secured in one place. Additionally, you can make use of a password generator, write your passwords down, or perhaps make use of a password manager that can securely store all your passwords.

Activate Security Answers

Before the technology and software became so advanced, most websites and platforms required you to set up mundane security questions and answers to ensure authenticity and heightened security measures.

While this feature may not be present on every site or social media app anymore, you can still activate it for certain platforms, adding a layer of security to your profiles.

When activating this feature, make sure to use difficult questions that will require answers even your closest relative or friend won't even know. Be extremely selective of the type of questions, and if you can create your questions, it's even better.

Deactivate Location Tracking

Social media does not only keep our personal information and data, but it's also possible for it to track our location and movement. Using these features may be a way for you to share your whereabouts, but nowadays it's become increasingly dangerous to have your location tracking features activated on social media.

Some web browsers may also require to have your location features activated to ensure you receive search results relevant to your area, the same for things such as Facebook Marketplace, or Snapchat.

Location tracking has become a critical issue for many people, not just for the safety of their information or movement, but more so for their security. Apps and websites allow you to deactivate this feature, and it's perhaps something you should consider without having to think twice about it.

Make your Profiles and Posts Private

This is one of the most simple ways to keep your information secure on social media. Instagram was one of the first social media apps that allowed users to activate the privacy feature on your profile that allowed only your followers to see your personal information.

They further initiated the process, by adding new features that allowed you to select and see your posts and anything you share on the platform.

Now, almost all social media apps are making use of this, as heightened security features such as these are becoming more popular for users who want to secure their information and the posts they share.

You're able to activate this feature via the app's settings and make sure to see what are the different features you can activate to keep your posts secure and account private to the general public.

Conduct Regular Security Maintenance

A final precaution you can do to ensure your information on social media and your mobile device is protected is to conduct regular security check-ups and maintenance.

This can involve changing your passwords more regularly, deleting any mobile apps that aren't being used, deactivating any unused social media accounts, unused website profiles, or third-party profiles, scanning your phone for viruses or potential information leaks, and doing regular backups of your information.

Keeping a close eye on your phone's performance is one of the best ways to see whether or not your phone has been hacked. Additionally, it's strongly advised that you stray away from using social credentials or information to log in to third-party websites, or sharing personal information on public profiles that aren't private or secured.

It's become a job of its own, having to secure your information and data to ensure that in the event of a major breach or hack, you will have undergone all the necessary protocols to protect your personal data.

Cybercrime is something that's not just happening to major corporations or high-profile public individuals, it has become a regular occurrence, whereby the everyday person can easily fall victim to.

Your personal data can be directly linked to your bank account, social media profiles, and any other online persona you have created. In the long run, it's best practice to conduct regular security maintenance that will ensure the safety of your apps, your mobile device, and your credentials.

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