Social media has come a long way in the last 20 years. It started as a silly way to keep in touch with old friends and high school buddies, but today it’s hard to imagine life without it. People use social media to stay up to date with the latest trends and follow their favorite brands, businesses, and celebrities. 

But social media has become more than just a luxury item. It is an essential tool for many businesses—in fact, some businesses can thank social media for their success. If you’re a business owner, entrepreneur, or brand, social media has probably done wonders for your business’s growth.

It’s easier than ever to share information, run promotions, and post pictures, but everything comes with a price. That price is your security. If your cyber security isn’t up to snuff, your data and information aren’t safe. But just how much of your data is at stake when it comes to cyber security and social media?

Understanding Cyber Security

Cyber security is how you protect your computers, servers, mobile devices, networks, email, and more from potential hackers or any other attack. Proper cyber security is information security; it makes sure that predatory hackers on the internet do not steal your business or personal data. 

Whether you’re an average person or a business owner, cyber security should not be taken lightly.

How Social Media Puts Your Cyber Security at Risk

Because social media is so accessible and available almost everywhere, lots of people have social media accounts and actively post on them. In fact, more than a whopping 3.6 billion people currently use social media. It’s projected that that number will increase to around 4.4 billion by 2025!

The number of people using social media is enormous. That means the risk of hacks and predatory attacks is equally as high. People on social media are often hacked because they are so caught up with their activity that they become complacent with their security. Hackers use varying strategies on different social media platforms, meaning your personal information faces not one but many threats.

1. Putting Your Information Out There

Whether it’s for business or personal reasons, whenever you open a social media account, you are required to provide detailed information about yourself. This information ranges from name and date of birth to home address, emails, phone numbers, and more. All of these bits of your information are liable to be stolen if your account is hacked.

But that information is not what most hackers seek. If you use social media for business, then you know that it costs money to promote and market your brand or product. This requires you to provide your banking and credit card information on your social media account. Unfortunately, hackers can steal this information too.

2. Malware

Malware, which is short for malicious software, is basically a collection of viruses and spyware developed by cyber attackers to infiltrate and damage your systems and data. It is usually spread through spam emails but has been increasingly used on social media. In fact, social media has become the gateway for malware spread. Users think they are clicking on a normal social media profile, and the next thing they know they are the victim of a cyber attack.

3. Fraud, Impersonation, and Catfishing

With the rise of television, there was a popular saying among viewers: “Don’t believe everything you see on TV.” This saying lamented the amount of false advertising or over-exaggeration that television marketers would broadcast to viewers. That saying applies just as much—if not more—to the internet age.

In many ways, the internet is a fantasy world where people can be whomever they want to be and do whatever they want to do. That’s why there are thousands of cases of impersonation and fraud reported on the internet. One form of this is known as catfishing, which is most frequently used on dating websites. Catfishing is when a person creates a fake profile and persona to scam an unknowing victim out of something, usually money. They get the victim to reveal their personal and banking information or even convince their victim to transfer money to an account of their choosing.

There are several ways your information is at risk, but the ones mentioned above are the most common across social media platforms. Be on the lookout for any suspicious links, profiles, friend requests, bogus businesses, and questionable information forms. Also, make sure to read up on the other ways your social media sabotages your cyber security.

Protecting Your Information

The good news is that social media companies constantly hire cyber security experts to update and upgrade their security features and preferences. For example, you might have come across something called CAPTCHA. This is a verification process used by social media companies to help boost their cyber security and filter out any malicious bots. Social media companies also notify you when they’ve made changes to their security settings.

But you, the user, can also do your part to protect your data. You don’t have to become a full-blown cyber security expert—that’s our job! It does mean being more attentive and vigilant about what you post online and what you give third parties or social media apps the authority to do. You don’t need to go through every word of the terms and conditions page, but you might want to reconsider accepting cookies when a website or an app asks you to.

Also, creating bulletproof passwords for your social media accounts is a no-brainer. Try setting up a PayPal or third-party payment website to handle all of your payment transactions. Only deal with businesses that you know are legitimate and registered. This is especially true if you are operating a business yourself.  

Your Cyber Security Matters

While it focuses on the online world, cyber security more or less translates to actual security, especially if you consider that you are posting your most delicate information online. This is information that, in the wrong hands, can translate to real-life threats.

While it’s easy to carelessly provide access to your information when downloading a new app or setting up a website account, the smarter and safer choice is to carefully read the details of what that website or social media app is asking from you. Then make the smart decision with the state of your cyber security in mind.