Without the internet and social media platforms, staying in touch with your friends and family would have been a lot more challenging this past year. After all, being online allowed us to enjoy some major moments from behind the safety of our screens. Whether it was attending your best friend’s virtual wedding or watching your favourite cousin’s baby’s first steps, being online has allowed us to connect with each other, so we never missed a minute of life’s most important moments.
What being online has really emphasized is that cyber security is key to connecting safely. Even as cities continue to open up post-pandemic, being cyber secure will still be important.
Whether you’re working remotely or checking in with your friends over social media, here are some ways that you can continue to stay safe while staying in touch online.
Avoid phishing scams
Phishing is a common tactic that cyber criminals use to steal your personal and financial information. Phishing messages often take the form of an email or text message from a cyber criminal who is pretending to be someone they aren’t. But these types of messages are also common on social media. Cyber criminals have become more strategic in their attempts to steal your information, and that includes sliding into your direct messages.
While platforms can vary, the red flags of phishing stay the same. Like any other phishing message, be on the lookout for urgent or threatening language, promises that are too good to be true (like prizes for contests you never entered), typos or bizarre language, and requests for personal information (like your passwords).
You should always be wary of unknown senders by either ignoring them or refusing to click on any suspicious links or downloads. If you aren’t sure whether a message is legitimate, check on them by contacting the sender through another channel like their phone number. This is especially important if it involves well-known companies sending you suspicious messages.
Keep your information private
Sharing information online can be fun, especially on social media where you want to keep your friends and family updated. Just be careful how much you’re sharing and with who.
Unfortunately, the more you post the easier it may be for a cyber criminal to use that information to steal your identity or hack your accounts.
One of the easiest ways to safeguard your accounts is to customize your security settings. For most social media accounts, you can locate those settings under your profile. From there, you should be able to control who can search for your profile, who can follow or contact you, and how much of your profile is visible to the public. We strongly recommend limiting the amount of personal information available on your profile, particularly when it comes to your phone number, address or any other pieces of sensitive information that a cyber criminal could use against you. You should also be cautious about adding people that you don’t know in real life as these may just be cyber criminals looking to trick you.
Use strong passwords and enable multi-factor authentication
Using unique and complex passphrases or passwords for each of your social media accounts is one of the best ways to keep your personal information safe. This is your first line of defence against a potential account hack from cyber criminals.
We recommend creating a strong password with a minimum of 12 characters (including random numbers and symbols) or upgrading to a stronger passphrase that uses a minimum of 15 characters and 4 or more random words. We also suggest using a password manager to protect your unique passwords so you don’t have to worry about memorizing all of them. If you do use a password manager, make sure that its primary password is your strongest one.
Unfortunately, even the best passwords won’t protect your accounts 100%. To properly secure your accounts, you should enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) or two-factor authentication (2FA) as an extra layer of security. This adds an extra step to your account login process, so if a cyber criminal were to ever get hold of your password, they would also need that second authentication factor to successfully log in. MFA on social media might look like a PIN sent to your phone or email address. Mobile devices could require a thumb print or facial recognition. We recommend enabling MFA or 2FA on all your accounts whenever available.
Staying social online has gotten us through a lot this past year – and just because we’re using the internet and social media a little differently now, we shouldn’t be any less cyber safe in our practices. The best ways to stay safe on social media are to stay vigilant against cyber scams and take the extra steps to protect your accounts’ privacy.