How much of you is on social media?


Everyone uses social media these days – indeed for some people, it’s like a second life, a place they go to meet friends, share stories and pictures and arrange events and parties. But it’s not just us honest everyday folk who use Facebook, Twitter and photo sharing sites such as Instagram, these platforms are also playgrounds for criminals. Facebook alone is a treasure trove of personal information just waiting to be mined. So, if you’re not locking down your privacy settings you’re putting yourself at risk.


In 2015, more than 770,000 Australians became victims of identity theft, and the average cost incurred came to more than $4,000. This doesn’t even include the hassle of trying to get your credit rating back, chase the banks for lost money and in many cases, repair the damage to your reputation. And it seems that many of these thefts came about due to the high social media profiles of the victims.

Salim Sukari, Director of Empower IT Solutions says, “We’ve all become so comfortable using social media sites, and they are very much integrated into modern life. This can lead to people dropping their guard and forgetting that they are possibly sharing sensitive data with some very dodgy people. Always check your privacy settings, don’t share data that’s too personal, keep it for catch ups with friends. Remember above all, that the more you share, the more vulnerable you become.”

Statistics show that some 30% of Facebook users don’t have their profiles set to private, and some 15% had no idea what their current privacy settings are at all. When you’re letting every Tom, Dick and Harry online know where you work, your hobbies, who you hang out with and where you are every moment of the day, you are leaving yourself open to phishing emails.

Malware emails

These are emails sent by hackers to encourage you to click a certain link. Once you’ve made the deadly click, malware and viruses install themselves into your systems. Once this happens, hackers can start to mine your most personal data including bank numbers, passwords and more. It is the rise in the use of social media that has led to phishing scams being so successful. The dangerous code is sent in email purporting to be from close friends, perhaps even talking about shared activities and interests. They can also appear to originate from official bodies such as the police, government or software providers.

Put your accounts in lock down

There’s nothing wrong with using platforms like Facebook to keep in touch with your friends, but you need to be careful who your friends actually are. Even if you think your settings are secure, remember that Facebook is often updating its timeline and privacy settings. So you must regularly monitor your profile if there’s been a big change. In the privacy section you should also opt to “limit old posts” so that these too can only be shared with real friends. And by real friends we mean real people you know in real life. Even if you limit your settings to “Friends of Friends” on Facebook, it means that you’re sharing information with nearly 160,000 other people according to a study by The Pew Research Centre.

You should also take time to review your activity log occasionally. This shows you your entire history of posts so that you can check who can see them. When it comes to your photos, you need to be careful too. Each album has its own sharing status.

It serves no purpose having your home address, phone number and date of birth a social media account and it’s means you’re basically handing over your identity to every criminal out there. You should also be wary of what you “like” or groups you join. These are helping hackers build up a picture of you that can only lead to ever more sophisticated phishing scams. The secret to control is to keep checking what others can see.

Be careful about integration

A lot of the main social networks sites allow you to integrate information with other social networks. A good example of this is when you post a tweet on Twitter, it shows up on your Facebook. Be careful that in doing so, you’re not sharing information on one site that you’d not share on another. Turn off this option if it’s not necessary.

Be prepared to block

If you get an invitation on Facebook or LinkedIn asking you to be friends or make a connection, only do so if you know the person. If you don’t, it’s a good idea to block them entirely. Think about how you’d react at the bus stop if a total stranger came up asking you to be their friend or to look at your holiday pictures –  you’d probably regard them as unstable, if not dangerous. Be just as wary online.

Be careful with status updates

Where are you now? What are you up to? Is it your birthday? All this information is of use to criminals. If you’re off to Bali for a week, the local burglars know that they’ve got plenty of time to go over and rob your house – and how nice of you to have pictures not only of your house but your brand new Xbox in your galleries. Birthdays, pet names, interests etc. can all be used to guess passwords and security questions. It’s not always good to share.

Use the usual password precautions

Of course, it’s annoying having to use different passwords for every online account you have but to use the same one across applications is asking for trouble. Remember, use longer passwords that include numbers and symbols, and change them often.

Think who’s reading

And of course, you’re not just putting yourself at risk of criminals when you’re sharing too much online. You’re also leaving yourself open to attack from anyone who bears a grudge. Information can be used against you, pictures and your posts can be taken out of context and your drunken musings can come back to bite you. Remember that your social media posts are often looked at by your bosses and colleagues, especially if you’re applying for a new job. People in sensitive posts or whom work in schools or with children should be especially careful when it comes to what they are posting. Teachers are easy targets for revengeful kids. If you are the sort of person with an active social media life, consider using a pseudonym to share with friends and family while maintaining a more professional profile for your work.

Empower IT Solutions can help you with all of your IT security needs. We have the expertise and experience to keep you and your company safe online. So why not schedule a security assessment today?