We all use social media. The platform we prefer might differ, but 59% of people around the globe have some form of it. Chances are, you do use an app to connect with friends online, too.
The top five most popular social media platforms are:
Do you use any of these? Then you need to know about the security risks that come with the territory.
Table of Contents
Introduction to Social Media Security
Before we delve into the specifics of social media security, it is important to understand the risks associated with using social media. Social media platforms collect a vast amount of personal data, which can be used by cybercriminals for various purposes. These include identity theft, financial fraud, cyberbullying, and phishing attacks, among others.
Threats of Social Media
Identity theft is one of the most significant risks associated with using social media. Cybercriminals can use your personal information to steal your identity and commit fraud in your name.
Cyberbullying is another significant risk associated with social media. Cyberbullies can use social media to harass, intimidate, or humiliate their victims.
Phishing attacks are a common tactic used by cybercriminals to steal personal information from social media users. These attacks typically involve the use of fake login pages or links that appear legitimate but are designed to steal your login credentials.
Facebook has a lot of settings that can be toggled on and off, depending on how much data you want to give it. From geo-location services that help you check into different places, to facial recognition for easy tagging in photos, to the cookies it collects to run sidebar ads relevant to your interests, the platform can keep a lot of data on you if you let it.
Those personalized ads that you get demonstrate how Facebook collects data far beyond what you do on its website. It can view your browser’s search history, and you may have heard the (unfounded) rumor that it can even listen in through your microphone! The hysteria does suggest just how much the website knows about its users, though.
It may not surprise you that YouTube can see everything you search on the website, from the videos you watch to the playlists that you like. Tracking what you enjoy watching and how long you sit through videos helps the site make better recommendations on what you should watch next, to keep you browsing and engaged. That’s also why they ask your opinions on ads that pop up before some videos; it’s all to personalize the experience.
Remember, though, YouTube is owned by Google. All of that data goes back to the mega-corporation, adding to their big picture of who you are (and all that backstory informs their video recommendations in return).
On the plus side, WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted. That means that the messages are secured from your device to the recipients; they’re also scrambled as “tokens” that can’t be read unless decrypted, so the communication is protected even in transit.
That doesn’t mean that the platform isn’t collecting data on you, however. The database saves your messages, the timestamp, and who was in the message thread. That can all be accessed later.
Did you know? The app can also access location services, your contact list, and all of your media too! Be careful what permissions you toggle on whenever you download a new app.
A few years ago, Facebook bought Instagram, so a lot of their data collection methods are similar. Meanwhile, this collaboration also means that Facebook can access your Instagram data and vice versa — which doubles the amount of information that you could input into the same database, without realizing it’s all going to the same place.
Plenty of people also use Instagram to shop online or learn about worldwide news. Instagram also takes into account what you look at and how long to send more personalized ads to your feed.
Convenient, or creepy? That’s up to you to decide.
A string of controversies concerning data mining and privacy leaks on TikTok has made headlines in the last few years, but that doesn’t seem to be slowing the app down much: It currently boasts over 1B users worldwide, compared to 655.9M just two years ago.
Despite the wide audience, tech researchers have found that TikTok can do all sorts of covert tracking across all your apps and networks, although the social media app refutes these data collection claims. It has also been criticized for its lack of safety measures and unwillingness to suspend user accounts deemed to be engaging in predatory behavior, which is particularly concerning given the apps’ appeal to a mostly younger demographic. Although children under 13 have additional privacy settings on their profiles, there are still safety concerns; and anyway, we all know how easy it is to fake our ages online.
Protect yourself on social media apps: Use a fake name and email address if possible (but don’t go around catfishing anyone!). Alternatively, some applications don’t require you to sign in at all — TikTok, for example, can be used without signing in. While this won’t stop that app from collecting data, it can’t be traced back to an individual user, either.
Use VPNs whenever possible, too, as this will protect the anonymity of your searches. Virtual private networks hide your IP address, so your browser appears to come from a distant, encrypted server.
Remember, taking proactive measures to secure your social media accounts can save you from significant headaches down the road. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Contact T3 today to protect your online presence and enjoy peace of mind.
What is social media security, and why is it important?
Social media security refers to the practices and measures used to protect personal information and online accounts on social media platforms. It is essential because social media platforms are a prime target for cybercriminals and hackers, and without adequate security measures, your personal information can be compromised.
What are the common risks of using social media?
The common risks of using social media include identity theft, cyberbullying, phishing attacks, malware infections, social engineering, and reputational damage. Additionally, social media platforms collect vast amounts of personal data, which can be used for targeted advertising and even sold to third parties.
What are the consequences of not securing your social media accounts?
Failing to secure your social media accounts can have severe consequences. It can result in identity theft, financial fraud, cyberbullying, reputational damage, and even physical harm. Moreover, once your personal information is leaked, it can be difficult to remove it from the internet.