Social networks allow you to communicate with family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances, share your photos and videos and much more. But don’t underestimate the dangers of social networks – such as identity theft or spying on private information. We’ve put together ten important, easy-to-use safety tips for social life on the web.
Use different e-mail addresses and secure passwords
If possible, use different email addresses for the accounts of the different social networks. This can at least make it more difficult for the information you reveal about yourself on the respective pages to be compiled into a comprehensive profile of you. If you use freemail accounts for this purpose, remember to call them up occasionally to keep them active. When choosing a provider, make sure that the provider cannot let the e-mail address expire and reassign it to a new user. Otherwise, there is a risk that another user will take over this e-mail address and thus gain access to the associated social network.
Also, use different and secure passwords for the individual services such as Facebook or Twitter. For the password, the longer the better. The password should be at least eight characters long, should not appear in a dictionary, and should consist of upper and lower case letters, special characters, and numbers. A password manager, such as keepass, can make it easier to handle different passwords. Under no circumstances should you disclose your password to third parties.
Use a two-factor authentication
Use two-factor authentication to access your social media accounts. This means: The first factor is a strong password (category knowledge). The second factor for additional authentication is a security token, i.e. a hardware component such as a key, a smart card or a special USB stick (category possession). An SMS sent by the provider can also be used. This provides much better protection for your user account. For unauthorized access, third parties would have to have both factors, i.e. both knowledge of the password and ownership of the device.
Be careful when installing apps, add-ons or plug-ins
Many social networks allow you to install third-party applications, such as games. This allows you to add useful features to your profile or customize it to your personal needs.
But online criminals also create or hijack such applications and use them to gain access to your profile. You should therefore check providers and sources for their trustworthiness.
For example, talk to friends before installing the application or check the Internet to see which apps, add-ons or plug-ins are recommended or not.
Be especially careful with mobile use
Social networks are often used via mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. Operators or third-party providers provide apps for this purpose. These often use sensitive data on the mobile device that you may not want to disclose. This includes address book, photos, videos or location information. In addition, you are usually always automatically logged into the social network afterwards. If you lose your device, the finder or thief can take advantage of this by impersonating you. For this reason, you should avoid storing passwords on your mobile devices and log in and out of the social network directly from the social network website instead of using the app.
Be picky about contact requests
Identity theft is one of the risks of the digital age. If you receive dubious requests from acquaintances, ask outside social networks about the trustworthiness of these messages. Only add people you know in the real world to your friends or contacts list. Unknown people could have malicious intentions. “Fake friends” can assume someone else’s identity through a fake account and may use that identity for crimes or illegal online transactions.
Do not click on links or buttons
Online criminals use social networks to lure users with postings or links in chats to prepared websites where they can access access data or infect devices with malware.
A simple click can cause malware to install itself on your device. The malware can, for example, switch on your device’s camera unnoticed by you, record your conversations through the microphone or even query your location. Your address book, photos or videos can also fall into unauthorized hands.
Protect your privacy and don’t reveal too much about yourself
Every social network offers numerous settings to protect your privacy. Use them, especially if you want only your friends to see your profile and postings. You can also set search engines to ignore your profile. Make yourself familiar with the possible settings and use them to protect your privacy.
Also consider the close links between social networking sites and other Internet services. A very extensive profile can be created about you. Do an online search for your name or that of family members from time to time to see what information about you or your children is available on the web.
Also check the security settings of your social media accounts at regular intervals. Pay particular attention to the links to other accounts. Social networking sites may change these settings on their own initiative.
Very personal information just doesn’t belong on the web. Information once published on the Internet quickly takes on a life of its own and is very difficult or impossible to delete. Check critically which personal information you want to publish and limit the group of recipients accordingly.
The less personal information of yours is published, the less it falls back on you.
This also applies to confidential information about your employer and your work. Information about activities and people at work should only be published – if at all – after consultation with the employer.
Report cyber stalkers and hate comments
Report to the operator of the social network people who harass or insult you or others. The operators can investigate the abuse and delete dubious profiles. In the case of obvious or suspected offences, seek advice from the police, inform those affected and, if necessary, report the offence.
Delete your account when you no longer need it
If you want to shut down an account, back up your data outside the network if necessary and then delete it in the account. Follow the provider’s procedure for deleting the user account exactly. In some cases, this includes not logging in again within a certain period of time.
Read the data protection regulations and the general terms and conditions (T&C) and inform yourself about your rights and obligations
Social networks are operated by profit-oriented companies, which are mostly financed by advertising. The terms and conditions provide information on how the provider handles your personal data and how this data is passed on to the advertising industry. Make yourself thoroughly familiar with the T&C and the data protection regulations – and do so before you create a profile.
Some social networks grant themselves rights of use to your publications. This means, for example, that you transfer the rights to use your photos and videos to the operator of the social network. It’s also common for granted rights to remain in effect even if you leave the network and delete your profile. Before publishing, consider whether you want to share the rights to your photos and texts. Also make sure that you do not infringe the rights of third parties by posting pictures, texts or videos.
Social networks also have rules of conduct that must be observed.