Cybersecurity and online safety


Updating friends and family on life’s milestones and sharing photos through social media platforms is fun for many people of all ages. However, thieves and online scammers can gain access to a plethora of user information that is free for the taking.

As privacy concerns about technology arise, users of social media platforms need to make it as difficult as possible to obtain personal information from online media sources, according to one cybersecurity expert.

“Sharing too much information can make you an easier target for identity theft, data theft or even stalking,” Tony Barattini, Chickasaw Nation information technology security senior manager, said.

Individuals tend to act differently when meeting face-to-face with strangers or acquaintances than when engaging online. Social media users can be more forthcoming with personal details, making them vulnerable to predators.

A person should never post their date of birth, address, place of work, phone number or full name on social media sites. While this may be fun information to share with friends and family, this sensitive data can also be used in identity theft.

“While you may already know that sharing Social Security numbers, bank accounts and passwords are a bad idea, other information such as addresses, full legal names, birthdays, and even vacation plans should be limited to those you know and trust and are best done not over social media where others may be able to see them,” Barattini said.

Cybersecurity professionals endorse a few key ways for keeping a person’s privacy and their personal well-being safe. Users with multiple social media accounts should have unique usernames for each. This makes it more difficult for people to track the user and glean information from several online sources. People should avoid using any part of their name or address in an online username. Usernames should be simple to remember, but too hard to guess.

When setting up online accounts or sharing information publicly, be aware that everyone has access to presented materials. Text conversations, photos and profile account information are viewable by others.

“Depending on governing laws, social media can be reviewed for employment or other personal applications,” Barattini said. “Social media spans the globe and shares information at a moment’s notice.

“Even if deleted, once posted, the information is never truly gone and can be retrieved by others. Additionally, social media services make significant revenue by selling data about their users. The information posted online about yourself and others is not just for the benefit of your followers, it is also the social media company’s product,” Barattini said.

Sharing physical locations on social media may also be dangerous. Criminals may be able to locate someone by merely glancing at their social media account. Social media can share where a person is and also where they are not. Social media posts and pictures allow potential burglars the ability to know when a person or family is on an extended holiday or business trip, allowing plenty of time to steal from a home.

“It’s a good idea to turn off GPS locations for any application that you don’t explicitly want locations on for,” Barattini said “Geotagging can indicate location data on where photos were taken. This might give away information about where you might keep prized possessions that you’ve taken pictures of and shared for others to see.”

Most people allow the camera located on their smart devices the ability to store GPS locations of where the photos were taken. Even if a person does not share the location in a social media post, the data saved within the photo can be extracted with the right software. Cybersecurity professionals recommend people protect their privacy by disabling this feature on smart devices.

“While some social media sites strip geotagging from the version of the photos viewed from their site, others retain geotagging information for other purposes such as selling data,” Barattini said.


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