How to secure your social media accounts and protect your privacy

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Social media is a great way to stay connected with friends and family, but it can also be a dangerous place for your privacy. These platforms are designed for us to connect with each other and share our lives, but that ease of sharing can come with security concerns in many instances.

That's why it's important to secure your social media and do your best to stay in control of your privacy online. 

Tips for staying safe and secure online

Online security is a mixture of small regular actions and larger ones that are designed to protect you over the long term. Both should be used hand in hand if you want to ensure that you're as safe as possible online.

Choose the strongest privacy settings the platform allows

Most platforms allow you to keep the vast majority of your information private. This is true even if they require you to enter it in order to create an account. This is strongly recommended, as much of the data that we share with these platforms is integral to our identity.

It is also advisable to keep an eye on who can view your posts. Most platforms allow you to set them to friends/followers only, and we recommend this if you don't want anyone and everyone to be able to see what you're up to.

Have a hard to guess password

The harder your password is to guess (or trick you into giving up) the more protected your account is going to be. As a general rule you want to stay away from names of family, including pets, birthdays and any other kind of information that may be casually shared during daily life.

It's also helpful to select a password that is as complicated as possible, because if you can't remember it due to the complexity, that's going to make it particularly hard to guess.

Make your passwords unique

Ensuring that every password is unique is also important. This is partially because it makes them harder to guess in general, as you'll need a variety of options, but mainly so that if someone does manage to compromise one account, they're not then able to access all of your sensitive data. 

If you need help remembering, using a password manager to help keep everything securely stored is wise.

Note: Writing important information on paper or in a diary is never a good idea and should be avoided. 

Connect with a VPN

Those who are particularly security conscious will also want to connect to any social sites that they use via a VPN. This helps prevent people with bad intentions from finding your real location and also provides additional measures (such as enhanced encryption) designed to keep you safe.

VPNs are also recommended for use any other time that you're dealing with sensitive data online such as banking or online shopping.

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Be wary of random friend requests

Random friend or follower requests may be perfectly innocent, but they could also be a major red flag. Once someone is connected with you on a social platform they generally have access to all of the information that you've posted on there, so it's a good idea to only accept requests from people that you know.

It is also wise to be cautious of requests from accounts that appear to be people that you know, especially if you're already connected with them on the platform. This can be a sign that they have been hacked, or that their account has been duplicated by someone other than them. In this instance, we suggest reaching out through a separate means of communication to ensure that the profile is actually them.

Don't trust strange messages

Messages that don't seem quite right should always be ignored, no matter who they come from.

Accounts are hacked all the time and one of the easiest ways for hackers to do this is to pose as someone that you know and get you to click a link or give them information that would allow them to access your account. This could present in the form of fishing for the answers to your security questions, asking for you to provide a code they send to your mobile, etc.

Message requests should also be taken with a grain of salt. This is particularly true if they're from someone random, but you should be wary even if they appear to be from someone that you know or someone you’re buying from or selling to on Facebook Marketplace.

Avoid checking in

Checking into a restaurant where you're having a nice dinner with friends, or tagging the activity that you're getting up to on holiday may seem innocent enough, but it can be quite a significant security concern.

Not only does checking in let everyone know where you are, but it also lets them know where you're not.

For this reason, we suggest avoiding checking into places until you have returned home. This is particularly important when you're far away from your house for an extended period of time, but is also a good idea when you're just out for the day.

Be conscious of pages that you like

If you're concerned about people finding out where you're located, it is important to be conscious of the pages and events that you like or show interest in.

This is because these things are usually localised, and can therefore be used to figure out your general location.

If you wish to keep up with a particular brand, we suggest either following their main account if they have one that doesn't show a specific location, or simply checking out their page every so often.

Be selective about how your account is tagged

Unless you've set your privacy settings to prevent it, content that you're tagged in is automatically added to your account. This means that it is visible on your profile for anyone who would like to look.

While this is usually perfectly fine, if you're worried about your privacy, we suggest turning the tag review feature on. This is available on most social media platforms and allows you to decide whether you want to remain tagged in the content that has been posted, as well as whether you're comfortable having it on your profile.

You may also wish to completely remove the ability of others to tag you if this type of thing is an issue for you.

Don't allow others to access your phone

Finally, this point isn't directly connected to your social media, but it is important for your online safety nonetheless. For most people these days, our smartphones are linked with almost every aspect of our lives, and they hold a lot of personal data on them.

There's nothing wrong with this in general and it can in fact be quite helpful, but it also poses possibly the most serious security risk outlined in this piece.

For this reason, it is incredibly important that you ensure that your phone is inaccessible to others. This means using a strong pin, password or biometrics is vital and this information should never be shared with anyone else. There's simply too much sensitive information that's easily accessible once someone is on your phone, so it isn't worth the risk, especially if you're prone to losing things.

Final word

There is always going to be a certain degree of risk when it comes to using social media. We are, after all, sharing our lives online.

Having said that, there are ways - like those outlined in this article - to help protect your privacy and keep your account secure. Follow these tips and remember that if something doesn't seem right, it probably isn't.

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Jessica Jones
Written by
Jessica Jones
Jess has been writing educational content for almost ten years with a focus on lifestyle content. She loves coffee, dogs and all things fitness, and can often be found with her nose buried in a book and her music blaring through her earphones.

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