Essential Tips to Keep Your Social Media Accounts Secure

How to Protect Your Security on Social Media

Hackers and criminals love social networking.

With social media, it’s easy to send dangerous links and malware and have them spread wildly. It’s shockingly simple to steal someone’s social identity and re-create an account to share malicious links or just to troll and terrify others.

Furthermore, on social media, virtually nothing is needed to find out who you are, what you do, and where and when you do it.

Social media has many security gaps that you should be aware of and address.

There are three buckets of security threats that you need to prepare for: privacy and identity theft, digital and personal security, and malware attacks.

Every network has their own security best practices. This article will cover the most popular social networks and the most broadly applicable advice. If you are looking for specific tips for each channel, check out our additional links at the bottom of this post.

How to Protect Your Privacy and Identity on Social Media

Protecting your privacy on social media is par for the course if you want to keep your identity safe and your digital and personal security intact. The main objective is to filter what people can see and how visible you are to strangers online.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Do not add anyone as a contact that you do not know personally. If possible, make your account private (Instagram and Twitter both have this option) so that new followers have to be approved by you.
  • Check new contacts’ pages thoroughly for signs that the account is authentic—regular updates, natural-photos, a history of posting, and shared friends.
  • Check your security settings on all your social platforms and set viewing access to the equivalent of “friends only” or “only me.”
  • When sharing publically or for public-facing images, like profile pictures or cover art, choose pictures that do not clearly show your face. On Facebook, you can now make profile pictures private to approved lists, just like for other photos on the platform. Keep in mind that Facebook shows some featured photos on your profile by default. You’ll need to visit your profile and remove them manually if you do not want them shown to strangers.
  • Never publish any personal posts as “Public.” Personal posts include any identifying information like location, full name, birthday, address, and so on.

how to protect data on facebook

On Twitter, use protected tweets—on Pinterest, secret boards.

What To Do If Your Identity is Stolen on Social Media or You Find a Privacy Gap?

  • Notify your friends that your social identity (profile information was stolen) has been compromised.
  • If possible, visit the offender’s mock account and report the profile to the network.
  • Write a support request directly to the network.
  • Screenshot everything you can for documentation of the offender’s actions.
  • If you fear for your physical safety, consider filing a police report with your local police.

How to Protect Your Personal and Digital Security on Social Media

When your privacy on social media is not adequately protected, or your account is hacked, you become vulnerable to personal attacks and theft of personal, secure data like bank information, direct contact information, or passwords.

To protect your personal and digital security, make sure you:

  • Turn on two-factor authentication whenever you have the option.
  • Turn off tracking for your browser.
  • Think twice before granting access to unknown apps. You may want to take that quiz that will tell you which video game you were born to play, but many entertainment publishers on social media are sketchy. If you need to remove access, here’s how on Facebook.
  • Don’t share personal or private details in social updates or direct messages, including bank information and travel details.
  • Turn off your geolocation, and don’t post about your activities until after you’ve completed them.

turn off location social media

  • Turn on timeline review on Facebook, which requires you to approve tags and posts to your timeline. Timeline review allows you to remove tags on posts that are publicly visible.
  • Create, update, and maintain your friends lists. On Facebook, you can make various friends lists. On Instagram, you can choose “Favorites” or “Close Friends.” On Pinterest, use Private Boards shared with close friends. And on Twitter, use protected tweets.
  • Again, never publish any personal posts as “Public.” (See the previous section.)

What to Do If Your Security Is Threatened on Social Media?

  • Reset your password for your social channel. Consider resetting other passwords if you have reason to believe the breach may have given the hacker access to other accounts.
  • Update your security settings on all accounts to ensure they are set appropriately.
  • Screenshot any and everything you can to use as documentation when reporting to the network or police.
  • Report the breach to the network.
  • In case of threats to physical security, file a police report with your local police.

How to Protect Your Computer from Malware on Social Media

Malicious links on social media can find you through poor advertising, a friend’s hacked account, or just spammy messages. Here is how to prevent being hacked and avoid malware while you’re enjoying social media.

  • Turn on two-factor authentication whenever you have the option.
  • Update your passwords regularly, especially if you’ve been hacked on another account or the network reports a security breach.
  • Report suspicious posts to the network:

On Facebook

how to report a post on Facebook

On Twitter

how to report a tweet

On Instagram

how to report an instagram post

  • Don’t click on links from anyone you do not trust, and do not click on any links that appear random or out of context with your relationship with the sender. For example, if your mother sends you a link for fantastic deals on mobile apps out of the blue, you should probably ask your mom if her account has been hacked.
  • Use an adblocker or similar security software to help you identify malicious links.
  • Keep your system and software updated. Outdated software is a weak link that may let you down if exposed to malware.
  • Make sure you’re in control of your Flash/Java settings, as malvertising publishers often exploit them.
  • Get an antivirus software.

What to Do If Your Social Media Account Is Hacked?

  • Change your password immediately.
  • Alert your friends on the social network.
  • Alert the network.
  • Update your system and software.
  • Check and update your antivirus software.

Have you ever had a security breach on social media? What happened and how did you resolve it?

Additional Security Resources by Social Network