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Online safety tips for social media and IM fans
Mon, 17th Oct 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The realm of the internet has changed a lot in recent years. Before, browsing online meant using search engines, looking for specific content or reading articles on your favourite news websites.

Nowadays, social networks, online videos and instant messaging are core to users' online experience, and this is especially true for the younger generation.

But the convenience of interacting with friends and acquaintances doesn't come without a price. A whole set of new risks has surfaced and even though social networks are trying hard, it is often user negligence that leads to compromised security.

Since October is European Cyber Security Month, it is a good time to dust off the playbook and better protect your profiles for these popular services. These online safety tips will do you well.

Update all your software and keep your devices secure

Keep your operating system, as well as all software – especially browsers – and apps up-to-date. Also, in order to keep the bad guys out, use a reliable and updated security solution installed and running on your computer or mobile device.

Use strong passwords

This is not only best practice for social networks, but for the cyber realm as a whole. Keep your passwords long, do not reuse them, and when creating them, use upper and lower case characters, as well as special symbols and numbers. If this is too complicated you can also opt for a password manager or passphrases.

Check your privacy settings

Your first priority, when creating a new profile, is to check and set your privacy settings. Make sure that your posts are only visible to your closest friends, or the group you've intended them for.

If you add details to your profile, keep them locked away from strangers and malicious actors so that they cannot misuse them to guess your passwords (or even worse, use them for identity theft). Review your settings periodically, as providers tend to change them over time.

Think twice before you post

Even if you keep all your settings as private as possible, screenshots of your profile or messages can end up online if you trust the wrong people.

Therefore, always think twice before you post or write anything – be it a picture, an opinion, a message or a video. Because once online, it can't be retracted later.

Be skeptical

One general rule: “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” So if someone is offering you a new car, computer or smartphone in exchange for your sensitive information, such as place or date of birth, or ID number, it is almost certainly a trap. Keep your sensitive data to yourself, and before you give them to anyone try to verify the authenticity of any similar competition or offer.

Avoid strangers

A good-looking guy or girl has just sent you a message (via messenger)? Do you know him/her, or is it someone you have never seen before in real life? If not, be very wary.

Cyberspace provides malicious actors with both anonymity and “camouflage”, which allows them to manipulate victims into actions that they would not normally consent to. To stay on the safe side, limit which people can contact you and if possible interact only with people you know personally.