Top 10 Ways To Stay Secure On Social Networks

Facebook and Twitter consume increasingly large chunks of our time, providing us with a public face to the world and accumulating personal data over time. Those benefits come with significant security risks, however. Make sure your social networking dream doesn’t turn into a nightmare by ensuring you follow good security practices.

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10. Be cautious when installing apps

Apps are one of the features that make Facebook in particular ‘sticky’, but they can also plunge into your personal data, advertise to your friends and cause other problems. Exercise caution when choosing applications; there are plenty of other ways to amuse yourself, after all.

9. Don’t grant apps inappropriate permissions

A common annoyance with apps is that they demand the right to post on your Facebook wall, which is both a nuisance and a potential security risk if they share unwanted information. Facebook doesn’t publicise the fact, but you can generally switch those notifications off; see our guide on how to do that.

8. Choose the right network

They might all have the goal of sharing information, but not all social networks are created equal. Facebook works best with actual friends and family; Twitter lets you broadcast to the world at large; LinkedIn is a sensible choice for advancing your career. (When we find out what Google+ is useful for, we’ll let you know.)

7. Set privacy options appropriately

The default options on much social networks make all your information public, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep them that way. Check out our comprehensive guide to setting Facebook’s privacy to change the settings to something more appropriate.

6. Say the right things

Even with privacy options set, you still need to consider what information you’re sharing with the world. Telling your Facebook friends you’re on holiday is fine, but broadcasting that across Twitter might be deemed riskier. Describing your drunken behaviour on LinkedIn is probably a no-no. Also remember that personal information (such as “It’s my birthday!”) can potentially be useful to hackers. Discretion is often wise.

5. Keep your overall system secure

If your system becomes infected with a keylogger, then everything you type into your machine (including social networking updates and passwords) is potentially vulnerable. So make sure your system is patched, that you have good security software, and that you scan regularly for issues. Our guide to securing someone else’s PC has more detail so you can help yourself and others.

4. Regularly monitor your settings

Social networking sites constantly change their preferences and systems, so it’s worth regularly checking to make sure your settings still
Tools such as Bliss Control make it easy to monitor and change your settings on a range of sites.

3. Secure your mobile devices

Social networking apps are all-pervasive on mobile phones, and that means you need your phone to be secure as well. Check out our guide to securing your smartphone to set up what you need.

2. Be cautious when clicking links

Sharing links is half the fun of social networking, but you should be wary of links where you can’t clearly see where they lead. URL shortening services are popular, but they make it harder to tell where you’re being redirected. Make sure your computer is patched and up-to-date. Your security software should help protect you from questionable links, but make your life easier by exercising a little caution. (Be especially wary of mysterious links suggested to you on Twitter by people you don’t know.

1. Follow good password practice

Whatever social networking service you use, you’re ultimately only as good as the password you log in with. Make it unique and difficult to guess, change it regularly and don’t share it with others. For much more guidance, check out our top 10 mistakes people make with passwords (and how to avoid them).

Lifehacker 101 is a weekly feature covering fundamental techniques that Lifehacker constantly refers to, explaining them step-by-step. Hey, we were all newbies once, right?


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