Social media isn’t just for birthday wishes and family reunion photos anymore. It’s an integral part of today’s professional world and a powerful tool that businesses can leverage to boost marketing, customer engagement and profits. More and more professionals are becoming active on social media, and businesses are increasingly using social media to conduct their operations—and there’s no slow-down in sight.
But just how much information should be handed over to social media sites, and what are these social platforms doing to protect that data?
The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data scandal in 2018 gave concern to many social media users, and not long afterwards, the world learned that Google Plus leaked data from its users. While social media may provide users with a more personal experience than other professional technology, it’s important not to let your guard down. At the end of the day, a social scandal is still a data breach, and it’s important to know how to keep your business and yourself protected.
But if businesses and their professionals are becoming more active on social media while we continue to hear of social scandals, how can you rest assured that your data is protected while still taking advantage of the perks of social media? There are several precautionary steps that you can take to protect yourself from future privacy invasions on social media, without permanently deleting your social networking accounts. I’ve outlined five ways you can protect your information below.
1. Use a secure network.
Use caution when working remotely or when logging into social media accounts on a public network. When you connect to a public Wi-Fi hotspot to use social media, you’re sending personal information unsecurely over the internet. If you use one of these methods to connect back to your office that has not been protected correctly, you are opening up unsecure paths back to your company. This information is stored on a server, so it’s important that you use a secure, encrypted network when sending or sharing information. Encryption codes the information that you are sending so that it is not accessible to others.
To ensure that you are using a secure website, look for “https” at the beginning of the URL on every page that you visit—not just when you sign in. Keep in mind that mobile apps sometimes aren’t as secure as an encrypted website. To ensure that you protect your information and prevent it from being compromised, never assume that a Wi-Fi hotspot is secure.
2. Manage connected apps.
Almost everything that we do online today requires a username and password, and it can be difficult to manage your login information for every account needed to complete your daily professional operations, as well as in your personal life.
Have you ever attempted to sign into a platform and been asked, “Would you like to log in through Facebook?” This common app feature allows you to connect your social media accounts to a third-party app, and it’s convenient for easy log-ins.
It is important to note, however, that when you use this method to log in, you permit the third party to access your information at any time through its connection with your social media account. Before you link a third-party app to a social media account, you should review the type of information that will be given to the third-party app.
Facebook is one of the most common social media platforms for this activity. If you are a Facebook user, you can learn more about app visibility and privacy and how to manage your connected apps here.
3. Draw the line on the amount of trust given to your friends and connections.
It is important for you to identify how much information is too much to share about yourself for your company. It is easy for people to copy or misuse the information that you provide to them, so you should avoid oversharing.
If you are leaving for a vacation, or if your entire business team is attending an event or conference, consider posting about it afterward so that you don’t make your home or office susceptible to invasions. Never post any financial information to your social media accounts, and avoid accepting friend requests or other invitations to connect from those whom you don’t personally know on your personal social profiles.
If your company has its own social media presence, you may also want to consider devoting specific and continuing cybersecurity education to your team members who manage it; informing your team about privacy and your company’s social sharing policies equips them to be aware of the most common online threats to your business and their respective red flags.
4. Practice good password habits.
Using a strong password is crucial to preventing hackers from accessing your accounts. It is also important that your passwords are unique for each site.
Once hackers have successfully logged into your account, they will often also try to gain access to other accounts by trying the password they have on hand. Try following the “unique account, unique password” rule.
Don’t overlook this for your company’s social accounts as well. It’s important to establish solid password procedures for your business that consider staff turnover and account accessibility.
5. Understand your privacy settings.
Understanding the default privacy settings offered by social media networking sites can help you to determine what information is susceptible to hackers, data thieves or other criminals so that you can make adjustments to suit your privacy preferences.
If you have apps connected to your social media accounts, it could be beneficial to read the privacy policies and understand how they are using your information.
As with all data breaches, the best solution to protecting yourself and your business on social media is to be as proactive as possible. Stopping the breach before it happens is the best way to protect your data.
Social media can be a great way to connect with others and a fun way to spend free time, and proactively identifying the threats that make your data vulnerable can make it that much more of an enjoyable experience.
This article was originally published on April 26, 2018 and has been most recently updated with new insight on May 3, 2019.