How to Share Responsibly in the Digital Age

Would you tell a thief when you’re going out of town, leaving your home empty and ripe for a robbery? Or expose your credit card information where snoopers could easily steal it?

It’s hard to think anyone would, but this happens regularly when Internet users lose sight of the risks that come with the territory.

Here’s a look at the pitfalls of sharing online and how you can avoid them.

Social Media 

Watch Your Contacts And What You Share With Them

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are built on friendships and followers—but not everyone here is friendly or following for innocent reasons. 

How well do you know your contacts, especially if they number in the hundreds, thousands, or more? Thieves commonly establish accounts to make connections they can exploit.

In fact, according to Homewatch Smart Home Security, 78% of burglars use social media to find their targets, using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google Maps. So, a seemingly innocent post about an upcoming vacation could be a green light for criminals looking for an easy mark.

Consider connections carefully, checking for trusted mutual connections and legitimate online presences before accepting them. Even then, remember that any personal details you share may potentially be seen by anyone—even criminals.

Hacks Happen

According to Businesstech Weekly, 20 percent of all small and medium-sized businesses with social media accounts have experienced a hack at some point. A University of Phoenix report puts the number at two-thirds for individual accounts.

Hacked social media accounts occur when login credentials fall into the wrong hands and can harbor a variety of threats ranging from annoying to potentially devastating.

Imagine waking up to find a post on your Facebook business page about a promo offer that doesn’t exist—or an offensive post about a competitor.

Safeguarding login credentials is one way to protect your social media accounts. Changing them when employees leave—especially under less than ideal circumstances—is essential.

Open-Source Intelligence

One of the downsides of the information age is that anyone, even criminals, can become an expert on you or your business simply by spending a few hours researching online.

Pictures, email addresses, achievements, and more are out there, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Just google yourself (if you haven’t already) and see what details come up from the search.

These types of freely available data, known as open-source intelligence, are a potential gold mine for criminals. Perpetrators of romance or ‘catfishing” scams routinely use this information to choose potential targets.

Other examples include spear phishing scams that target business owners using information found on professional platforms like LinkedIn. These typically involve a promise of a bogus magazine feature. When the target clicks to learn more, a ransomware attack ensues.

In an ironic twist, criminals may even use information found on background check sites to extort money from those with prior arrests or criminal backgrounds.

Unintended Sharing

Sometimes the most damaging incidents occur when you don’t even know you’re sharing. This typically happens when conducting business on an unsecured Internet connection you’d normally find at a coffee house or public space.

Take, for example, the caterer who’s killing time between flights by using the airport Wi-Fi to purchase supplies using her business credit card.

Unless the Wi-Fi address field includes a padlock icon, the ‘https’ prefix, or appears green—features indicating a secure web connection—she’s at risk. Using the same unsecured Wi-Fi, criminals can target her activity and capture her card information.

Never shop, bank, or share financial information on sites that aren’t secure. If you can’t access a secure site, using a virtual private network (VPN) provides an extra layer of security.

Guidelines to Remember

While going online is a singular experience, it pays to remember that you’re sharing the platform with billions. Most could care less about you or your business, but a handful cares for all the wrong reasons. Here are some tips to keep them from exploiting you:

  • Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want the whole world to see on social media.
  • Remember, anything you do post will exist online indefinitely.
  • Be judicious about what you post, considering the impact now and in the future.
  • Never conduct financial business using an unsecured Internet connection.
  • Steer clear of unsecured Internet connections or use a VPN if you can’t.
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