With the increasing social media platforms like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter remaining free and having an increasing number of active users, so too are the cyber criminals. Criminals are taking advantage of people’s lack of awareness on how to use social networking sites properly and securely. In most cases, people would search for the topic: “How to Secure Your Identity Online” only when they already become a cybercrime victim.
Cybercrime is a very serious issue these days. Think about this statistics:
- There are 1.5 million annual cyber attacks globally
- In 2014 alone, 47% of American adults had their personal information stolen by hackers
- Digital theft affects between 1 and 17% of the online global population according to a UN study
- There are 80% or more unreported cases of cyber crimes due to the lack of awareness of the crime or the ability to report it (CBS.com)
- In Yahoo alone, just recently, the company admits 500 million user account credentials were stolen, which would make it the biggest breach of all time. If you are a Yahoo user, you must change your password immediately.
- Hacking costs an average American firm $15 million annually, double the global average of $7.7 million (CNN/HP.com)
- It takes only 10 minutes to crack a lowercase password that is six characters long
These numbers are alarming that’s why we outlined 12 important tips to secure your identity online:
1 When using social networking sites, accept friend requests only from people you already know, like, and trust.
Remember, humans are social being, this reality created an idea of an online social website where people can connect to each other, share information, photos and experiences. Social networking site such as Facebook is very well-known for its “friend request” feature where you can grow your network by “add friend” someone’s profile. You will receive a notification if someone has sent you a “friend request.” This simple concept of Facebook became so popular for teens, even a 7-year-old kid can sign-up by faking his/her birth date (13 is the age limit).
This makes social networking sites a perfect venue for hackers and scammers to do illegal activities. So in this case, as a rule of thumb, accept friend requests only from people you already know, like, and trust.
2 Check your social media privacy settings and limit only information you disclose; avoid third party apps on Facebook
In Facebook, for example, you must change settings to “Friends Only” by default for all posts for a more secure social profile. Facebook has a lot of security features for you to customize.
Be wary of third-party applications on Facebook, avoid them if necessary. Some apps can have access to personal details such as your birthday, your status updates and educational and work history (go to App Settings, delete the app (click x button to remove) or click the name of the app to customize individual setting).
3 Avoid using weak passwords.
Use a combination of letters, numbers, and some special characters (symbols) so people can’t easily guess your password. Use more than 8 characters for the password length: the more the better as long as you can remember. Never include easily identifiable information such as names, birthdate, words in the dictionary, or anything that anyone could guess.
Some programs are designed to decipher passwords and can reveal weak passwords in just a few minutes or hours, so be very strict choosing your password as thieves will do everything (they have extreme patience) to steal them. Refer to this website for more tips on choosing a secure password: http://www.bu.edu/infosec/howtos/how-to-choose-a-password/