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Protecting Yourself Online - Social Media

Social media sites are an increasing pervasive medium that enables us to connect, collaborate, and share with our Community. Our social networks are increasingly important in supporting us to keep informed and maintain relationships in a progressively globalised world.

Social media however, can be equally used by people globally who you do not know to defraud or blackmail you, assume your identity, or adversely influence you.

The Curtin Information Security team has developed this advisory article to help to provide advice and steps you can take to improve awareness and control of your information on social media.

Information about you is available to a global audience through social media. You only have to search for your name in Google to see how much information about you is available.

The information you publish widely could be used by companies, criminal organisations, and governments to target you. This is particularly important if you publish your date of birth; previous educational history and years of study; family relationships; photos of yourself and people you know; email address; or home or other address information.

It is essential to control and limit information you do not want people to see. Be advised that most social media accounts have privacy and security settings that allow you to control what the public can see and what your social media contacts can see. Additionally, changes are made frequently by the site operators which on occasion may result in more of your information being made available as updates are made to the site.

To help you to keep on top of these changes, we have provided links for the most common social media sites to enable you to review and take control of your privacy and security settings and reduce your information’s visibility on social media:

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Be aware that what you post or write online could be permanent. If you happen to provide information about you it may not be able to be removed. Some common threats that occur using information published on social media include:

Threats to your professional career:
Organisations are increasingly scanning social media sites as part of their on-boarding or screening processes. Controversial or embarrassing comments or photos that you or other people in your network post about you, may result in reduced options for future job prospects.

Threats to you:
Sharing too much personal information may create unnecessary problems in your life. If you let your social media network know that you are on holiday, someone may take that as an invitation to burgle your house. Sharing your address, phone number, and even your birthday may be used against you by criminals to commit identity theft.

Threats to others you know and care for:
Criminals around the world will look to social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter to identify personal and sensitive information about your family, friends and organisations they work for. What you post to social media about others may affect their reputation, privacy and security. Please be mindful of the impact you may have on others.

To help reduce the impact of the threats listed above, ask yourself the following questions before you post:

  • Who can access the information I am putting online?
  • Who controls and owns the information I put into a social networking site?
  • What information about me could my social network pass on to other people?
  • Will my contacts mind if I share information about them with other people?
  • Will the information I share hurt or offend others?

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Have you accepted a connection or friend request from someone you have not met?

If you have, they may be accessing your private information to target you or someone you know. It is recommended you only accept social media contacts from people you have met and are comfortable with them accessing information about who you are and what you do which is not public.

To help reduce exposure to people you may not want seeing this information, it is recommended you review your social media contacts often and when in doubt remove the contact.           

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Passwords are in many cases the only thing keeping cyber criminals from accessing more sensitive information about you, so you need to protect them.

Here are some tips to keep your passwords safe:

  • Don't share your passwords or write your passwords down!
  • Use different passwords for different accounts;
  • Change your passwords regularly;
  • Make sure your passwords aren’t easy to guess. Don’t use your birthdate or easy to guess passwords like password1 or 12345. Try to use a mixture of letters, numbers and characters; and
  • Avoid using public computers or open wireless connections to access your social media account. If you do, remember to log out of the social media site completely by clicking the “log out” button.

Other steps you can take to keep your social media access safe include:

  • Ensure your devices use legitimate operating systems and have antivirus or antimalware software installed and the virus definitions are up to date.
  • When using mobile devices and access social media sites via apps, ensure you download the apps from a trusted site and that your mobile device is protected with a strong password or passcode.

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If your social media account details or personal information within your social media account are exposed to the public, you may see an increase in emails or personal communications (i.e. text messages) to your phone.

Here are some recommendations to reduce further problems:

  • Report your account compromise to the social media site owner and attempt to reclaim it from the help centre web pages of your social networking sites.
  • Change your social media account password immediately and change the passwords of any other account that uses the same password as your social networking site.
  • Notify your friends, family, and social network. By alerting them immediately, you can help them avoid the same situation you have found yourself in.
  • Where criminal activity may have occurred, contact your local Police department for further advice and reporting.

Recommendations if you receive phone messages:

  • Beware of messages from a number that starts with "5000" or some other number that is not a mobile phone number.
  • Never reply to a suspicious text message without doing your research and verifying the source. You can also block the contact number using your mobile phone setting.
  • If a text message is urging you to act or respond quickly, stop and consider whether this could be a scam. Remember that criminals use this as a tactic to get you to do what they want.
  • Never call a phone number from an unsolicited text message.
  • Avoid clicking links within text messages, especially if they are sent from someone that you don’t know.

Recommendations if you receive emails
To protect yourself against email threats, please read the article we published recently on Curtin Weekly on Protecting Yourself Online.

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