#BeCyberSmart: Tips for Safer Social Networking

Underlined terms are defined at the end of this article.

Social media services have become an integral part of life for many individuals and organizations. Social networks can be a convenient way to stay connected with others, but you should be wary about how much personal or work-related information you post. Malicious individuals can use that information against you in both your online and offline lives, such as a tailored social engineering attack or swatting attack, respectively.

You should follow these tips to use social media more securely and safely:

  • Manage your privacy and security settings. Learn about and use the privacy and security settings on social networks. They are there to help you control who sees what you post and manage your online experience in a safer and more secure manner.
  • Once posted, always posted. Protect your reputation on social networks. What you post online stays online. Though you may delete something, backups and archives of services remain. Think twice before posting pictures you would not want your parents or future employers to see.
  • Keep personal info personal. Be cautious about how much personal information you provide on social media. The more information you post, the easier it may be for a malicious individual or bot to use that information to target you, steal your identity, access your data, or commit other crimes such as swatting.
  • Know what action to take. If someone is harassing or threatening you, remove them from your friends list, block them and report them to the site administrator.
  • Keep your devices and software current. Having the latest security software, web browser and operating system is the best defense against viruses, malware, and other online threats.
  • Make your passphrase a memorable sentence. A strong passphrase is a sentence that is at least 14 characters long. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy to remember (for example, “I-enjoy-biking”). On many sites, you can even use spaces!
  • Use unique passphrases for each account. Having separate passphrases for every account helps to thwart malicious individuals. At a minimum, separate your University and personal accounts and make sure that your critical accounts have the strongest passphrases.
  • Be cautious on social networking sites. Even links that look they come from those you know can sometimes contain malware or be part of a phishing attack. If you are at all suspicious, do not click it. Contact your friend to verify the validity of the link first.

Cybersecurity Terms Used

  • Bot: Type of program used for automating tasks online.
  • Malware: short for “malicious software,” is software intended to damage, disable, or give someone unauthorized access to your computer or other internet-connected device.
  • Social engineering: When individuals gather commonly available information about you and things you care about to trick you into revealing information or giving unauthorized access to information systems
  • Swatting: An attack centered around location sharing. Malicious individuals use your location to call the police, claiming that you, the victim, has committed a serious crime.

Do Your Part. #StayCyberSmart!

-Submitted by Jonathan Wagner

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