Ten Tips for Staying Safe Online
Hi, folks! My name’s Dane Cobain and I’m an author and social media marketer from High Wycombe in the UK. So far, I’ve released a supernatural thriller novella, a poetry collection and a literary fiction novel, but I’m here today to support my upcoming release, a non-fiction book called Social Paranoia: How Consumers and Brands Can Stay Safe in a Connected World.
Social Paranoia is all about the mistakes that people make on social networking sites, and what people can do to avoid them. There are so many things that can go wrong that I won’t be able to cover them all here, but I will be giving you my top ten tips.
So kick back, relax, check that no-one’s looking over your shoulder and let’s get started!
#1: Obey the grandma rule
If you’re ever in doubt about whether you should post something, think about your grandma (or, alternatively, a potential employer in the future). Ask yourself whether it’s something that you’d be comfortable saying in front of them – if not, don’t post it!
#2: Use strong passwords
A strong password should be at least eight characters long and feature a mixture of lower and uppercase letters, numbers and symbols. If possible, use a different password for every site that you use, and never, ever share your password with someone else. This will help you to avoid hacks, leaks and unauthorised account access.
#3: Remember the negativity bias
The negativity bias is an observable phenomenon in which people can perceive negativity even when it isn’t there. Always assume that someone might view your status updates with a negative eye, and make sure that they don’t have an unintended second meaning that could be misinterpreted.
#4: Have a crisis plan
If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. Have an idea of what you’ll do if something goes wrong – for example, if one of your status updates goes viral for some reason, or if your account gets hacked. Know what you’re going to do in advance, so that if something does go wrong, you’re ready for it.
#5: Pay it forward
This is a useful mantra that it helps to bear in mind when you’re using social networking sites. It’s a similar concept to karma – what goes around, comes around. Be nice to other people on social networking sites, help them out when they need help and interact with their updates, and the favour will be returned.
#6: Avoid suspicious links
This is particularly important when checking e-mails or private messages. If a link looks suspicious, don’t click it – ask the sender to confirm its authenticity first. Some malicious viruses spread from user to user through these links, compromising account security and potentially damaging your computer.
#7: Use your real name
There are two reasons for this. The first is that if you use your real name, you’ll be more aware of what you’re doing when you’re using social sites, because it can easily be tied back to you. The second is that, if you use a fake name or a pseudonym and you get found out – particularly if there’s a conflict of interests there – then it can backfire and damage your reputation.
#8: Use up-to-date antivirus software
Make sure that you have antivirus and firewall software on any devices that you use to log in to social networking sites, and keep it up-to-date. Some viruses have the ability to compromise your login credentials, and so protecting yourself with software will help you to protect yourself against that.
#9: Maintain your privacy settings
Most social networking sites allow you to customise your privacy settings, to control who’s able to see your updates. Considering making your profile private unless people send you a friend request, and if you’re using Twitter but only to speak to friends, consider making your profile private so that people have to send follow requests before they can see your updates. That way, you’re in charge of who sees what you’re saying.
#10: Don’t leave computers or devices unattended
If you’re logged in at a machine, don’t leave it unattended, and clear your password history after use if you’re on a public computer. If you’re logged in your mobile phone, make sure that it has a passcode. This will stop people from gaining unauthorised access to your accounts by simply hijacking your machine.
So there you have it – those are my top ten tips for staying safe on social networking sites. Ultimately, it all comes down to common sense – use that, and you’ll probably be alright, but it always pays to be careful!
Want to find out more tips for online safety, or to read about some of the massive fails that people and brands have faced? Check out Social Paranoia: How Consumers and Brands Can Stay Safe in a Connected World after it launches on August 22nd!
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