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How to react to the most common social media privacy and security risks

Alina BÎZGĂ

December 06, 2021

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How to react to the most common social media privacy and security risks

Social media is a big part of our social and creative life. It lets us share our thoughts and ideas, communicate with others and make new friends. The downside of this apparent haven for online social gatherings is the fostering of malicious individuals who use platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat to make users’ life miserable.

Extensive use of social media and the ease of self-disclosure may prove to be a double-edged sword, making it much easier for scammers and ill-intentioned individuals to target them, inflicting financial, emotional and social harm.

Cyberstalking

The enthusiasm of sharing accomplishments, good-looking photos and plans online can get the best of users. Information disclosed via social media profiles and posts can provide enough information for individuals to fall victim to cyberstalkers, who can extend their behavior to the real world as well. Online stalking may not involve physical stalking but it is considered a crime and a serious invasion of privacy.

What to do: Some measures can be taken to help prevent suspicious individuals from stalking you, including disabling geo-tagging or location features when posting, maximizing privacy features in settings on all social media profiles, and reviewing your friend list and followers frequently. If you are aware of cyberstalking behavior, or suspect it, immediately block suspicious accounts and cease communication with the individual. Keep a copy of all correspondence and report the incident to the platform and local police. Remember, you have no obligation to accept a friend request from someone you don’t know. Before accepting a friend request, research the person and check their timeline or profile for red flags. Victims should also think about suspending their social media activity and avoid posting any information that may point to a physical location or travel plans.

Cyberbullying

Social media can bring out the worst in people. According to a study, 87% of young people have seen bullying online, and 60% of teenagers say they have experienced some form of cyberbullying. While children, teens and young adults are especially prone to cyberbullying, this form of online harassment can also target adults. Another study has revealed that 40% of adults in the US say they have personally experienced online harassment. The act of cyberbullying can involve abusive texts and emails, threats and posting unkind messages in an attempt to shame users, among others.

What to do: Cyberbullying often takes place where parents can’t see. In this respect, parents need to look for changes in their child’s behavior and monitor online interactions and social media profiles for any evidence of online harassment. Reassure your child that he can always report hateful behavior to you, and advise him never to reply or respond to cyberbullies. Instead, save any evidence of online harassment, block the individual and report him to the social media platform.

Social engineering schemes

Fraudsters often hide on social media and use these platforms to spread malware, shopping, romance and investment scams to defraud unsuspecting users. Romance scams are very common, with many fraudsters creating legitimate-looking profiles to catfish their victims.

What to do: Avoid posts and ads that offer too-good-too-be-true offers and freebies on health and beauty products. Don’t click on any links that direct you to unsecured websites, or provide individuals you just met with your personal information, money or credit card details. If you’re looking for a romantic relationship on social media, don’t provide too much information and cease communication if your love interest starts asking for money or offers you investment opportunities.

Data breaches

Due to the massive amounts of user-generated data, social media has become an invaluable asset to fuel cybercriminal activity and identity theft. You may think the information on your social media account holds no great value for a cybercriminal, but it’s actually a gold mine of exploitable data for cyber crooks. Malicious individuals often use compromised social media profiles to harvest your information or use the login credentials to sign into banking accounts or e-commerce platforms. Moreover, using any information about your workplace and your friend lists, threat actors may deploy targeted phishing attacks to financially compromise your employer or family members.

What to do: Increased social media use and poor cybersecurity practices continue to fuel the data breach pandemic. To protect your social media accounts, use complex and unique passwords and opt for the highest privacy levels provided by the platform.  Never give out sensitive information when setting up your profile or posting. Use a security solution, keep your system up to date, and stay informed of the latest threats.

Staying on top of data breaches and leaks can be time-consuming. Check out Bitdefender’s Digital Identity Protection service to get real-time alerts for data breaches and privacy threats. You get instant access to a mapping of your online accounts and publicly available data, allowing you to assess your risk levels. You can stop worrying about what you should do next. The service gives you easy-to-follow one-click action items that allow you to shut down any weak points in your digital footprint.

Impersonation

Malicious actors can use your online identity to create a fake social media account in your name. Social media impersonation is a form of digital identity theft that can scam individuals or organizations by defrauding connections, gaining access to confidential information or proliferating cybercriminal activity.

What to do: Victims of social media impersonation are usually made aware of such incidents by friends or followers. If you discover that someone is pretending to be you, do not attempt to contact the imposters, as you can tip them off. Warn all your contacts and report the imposter account to the platform providing screenshots and any additional information.

Users who subscribe to Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection also get a new superpower allowing them to detect social media impersonators that could ruin their online reputation or prove harmful to friends and family.

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