8 Tips To Protect Yourself In The Social Media Jungle

In the past I have pointed out the problems that could arise if you were not careful with your online social media activities with the likes of Twitter and Facebook. Online security is a matter of common sense but as we all know common sense goes out of the window after a few drinks and a good party atmosphere!

What seemed like good fun tagging that group moon on Facebook may not be so funny two years down the line when you are applying for a job with a company whose policy its to scrutinise social media sites to monitor the past behaviour of potential future employees. So let’s start with a few basic ground rules:

1. The no brainer approach

If you want to be 100 per cent safe limit your Internet presence to zero. That’s right, throw away that modem and router, cancel your ISP and just use that computer for word processing and playing games. No eBay, no PayPal, no Twitter, no Facebook, no email, no Picasa for photographs or Flickr … no fun!

2. Adopt an anonymous Net name

Google’s Eric Schmidt has said that some people would have to change their names due to their past on social media sites – so beat him at his own game and create a new Internet ID before you start. Create a new you on Facebook or Twitter and keep your ID close to just the friends you want to interact with and don’t start wandering off into the outfield.

3. Check the small print

By this I mean check out the privacy settings for all your social media sites and ensure that stuff isn’t sneaking out there under the radar because you haven’t ticked a checkbox. Facebook seems to check its privacy policy with the phases of the moon! Just because a site has a nice interface don’t be misled into thinking it’s entire purpose is benign. People don’t run sites like Facebook because it gives them a warm feeling, they are looking at ways to monetise what it knows about you.

4. It isn’t just a password

Hands up, I often use the same password for multiple sites but it really is a very stupid strategy, but I am getting better. Use strong passwords that have a mix of letters, numbers and characters like #. Don’t use your pet’s name or your school nickname. If you want to there are plenty of password generators out there – just Google them.

5. Untagging – a good idea

Your best mate might think he’s doing you a favour by tagging you in that photograph of the skinny dipping beach party but you can bet that will at some stage come back and bite you on the arse. Untag yourself and protect yourself.

6. Become an e-mail sceptic

The bad guys out there are coming up with more and more clever ways to get you to open their emails and place malware on your system. It’s not just the dodgy Nigerian scams any more. I am getting a lot of emails allegedly from UPS and the like saying they couldn’t deliver a parcel, click on the attached file for the receipt so you can collect in person. These people scan social media networks looking for IDs to plug into – make it difficult.

7. Become a malware detective

There are all sorts of ways people are trying to put malware on your system from emails to sites that encourage you to click a link showing the latest star doing odd things with a cucumber! Think before you click – if something seems to be too good to be true it’s because it probably is.

8. Protect your system

If you use a computer without an anti-virus program, virus check and malware detector like Spyware Blaster you are asking for trouble. Avast and AVG both have excellent free anti virus offers and if you cough up some cash you can buy versions with malware protection as well.

Kevin Tea is a journalist and marketing communications professional who has worked for some of the leading blue chip companies in the UK and Europe. In the 1990s he became interested in how emerging Internet-based technologies could change the way that people worked and became an administrator on the Telework Europa Forum on CompuServe. With other colleagues he took part in a four year European Commission sponsored project to look at the way that the Internet could benefit remote communities. His blog is a resource for SMEs who want to use cloud computing and Web 2.0 technologies.