You may be among the millions of Internet users who visit social networking sites daily — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and blogs — assuming you’re in a safe, controlled environment. While social networking can be fun to use and helpful to establish and maintain your personal and professional relationships, it can present security risks. It is easy to forget that strangers can gain access to your site, increasing your exposure to identity theft.
As you connect with others online, take these precautions to guard against social networking fraud:
- First, limit the amount of personal information you post online. Avoid posting personally identifiable information, such as your full name, home address, phone numbers, email address, age, or birth date publicly to prevent identity theft. Be aware that everything you post on the web may be downloaded and saved by other parties. This information may also remain online, even after the original posting has been removed.
- Customize privacy options. Most social networking sites offer settings that let you restrict public access to your profile. Don’t assume that you have to take the default settings given by the site. Check the settings and privacy sections to see what options you have to limit who can view your information.
- Do not allow social networking services to scan your email address book. Sometimes when you join a new social network, you are prompted to enter your email address and password to find out who else is on the network. Potentially, the site could use this information to send email messages to everyone in your contact list and even to everyone you’ve ever sent an email message to using that email address. Some social networking sites do not divulge this information.
- Beware of geotags. These are electronic tags that assign a geographical location to a photograph or video posted on social media websites. If your location is turned on, some geotags are automatic and can reveal where the photo or video was taken. Be sure to keep your location private. Wait until you’ve returned home to share vacation information online. Practice this measure any time you plan to be out of the house for extended periods of time, so you won’t announce to strangers that you are not at home.
- Use strong passwords and passphrases with 2FA. One of the most important steps you can take to safeguard your data is to use strong passwords or passphrases with two-factor authentication (2FA) for every account you own. NC State requires Duo Security and Google 2-Step Verification to access most web-based university systems and accounts. See also Two Factor Auth (2FA). Also, never use the same password or passphrase across different accounts. Doing so puts you at a higher risk for cyber criminals to access all of your accounts if they get access to one of them.
For more information on practicing safe social networking, see Social Networking at NC State.