Social media has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade, to a place where everything we do somehow makes it onto the World Wide Web. The challenge with this, naturally, is making sure that what we are posting is actually secure from threats and that we do nothing to compromise our identities in real life. Identity theft is the most frequently committed crime in America and if you are an avid Twitter fan, reading this could help save you from a lot of heartaches.
While posting updates, and keeping in touch with friends and acquaintances is the fun side of twitter there is also a darker more ominous side where hackers and other criminal elements seek to steal identities. Employers fire employees over tweets whether you sent them or not. Additionally, massive government security lapses could put us all at risk for a thermonuclear meltdown if hackers posed as politicians seek to rile up crowds. Here are some basic tips to prevent restarting the cold war, losing your job, and protecting yourself in the process.
Never share personal information over the internet because you never know who is reading it. This includes things like social security numbers, bank account numbers, mother’s maiden name, or the combination to your safe in the bedroom. Other things which are not smart to share over Twitter are personal email addresses, phone numbers, and home address (or work address for that matter).
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A very popular feature on Twitter is “Geotagging”, which automatically pinpoints your exact location at the time of a tweet, telling the world exactly where you happen to be. If you have security concerns or are just playing it safe, it is a good idea to disable this feature. The last thing you need is a stalker showing up while you have a beer with friends.
Changing your password is like changing your shorts, very important for the health and hygiene of your internet life. The average user virtually never changes their password because of a misbegotten belief that they are not interesting enough to be hacked. The sad thing is anyone with a bank account or a social security number is interesting enough to be hacked and so regardless of your opinion of yourself socially, changing your password at least once every few months is an excellent idea. Simultaneously using passwords that are a combination of letters, numbers, and characters is very advisable.
Using things easily associated with you like your name, a brand of toothpaste or dog’s pet name are not smart since they are easily guessed by a halfway intelligent hacker.
The adage “never talk to strangers” applies to the digital world as well as to the real world. Unsolicited direct messages are a sure-fire way for someone to get you caught up in a phishing scam. This may seem a little mundane but when asked by an unknown user, or even a known user, for your login and password it’s probably time to hit the delete button. Nobody, not even twitter’s own employees, ever need to know what your login and password combination is. Should an unsolicited message lead you to a site that asks for these items, closing down the browser window and running an antivirus check on the computer, is very highly recommended.
Finally, keep updated virus protection software and firewall on your computer at all times. While we, as humans, are prone to doing silly things like clicking unsolicited email links and typing in our social security number, a computer antivirus can at least protect the machine from a malignant attack of the bits and bytes kind.
Twitter can provide a great deal of enjoyment and used responsibly can really enhance the social media experience. Be safe, be smart, and have fun.