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VOL. 131 | NO. 240 | Friday, December 2, 2016

Be Social Media Vigilant During Holidays

BY PATRICK TAMBURRINO, Special to The Daily News

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As you plan to spend the holidays with your loved ones and document these memories for social media, it’s important to be aware of the potential cybersecurity risks you might face. 

Because social media is becoming more prevalent in our lives and we’re sharing more and more personal information, we should be mindful of letting our guard down when interacting with our circles of friends on sites like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. From a hacker’s standpoint, these platforms are goldmines for phishing, spam and malware.

Facebook scams were the most common form of malware distributed in 2015, according to Cisco Systems. And it’s not just an inconvenience to personal devices – PricewaterhouseCoopers found that more than one in eight businesses fell victim to a security breach because of a social media-related cyber-attack.

So what can you do to beef up social media security over the holidays, during prime hacking season?

Understand the perils of public Wi-Fi. Most public connections are either unsecured or have shared passwords. One way around that is to turn on two-factor authentication. This means that when you try to login to a website, the website will text message your phone with a code for you to enter into the site along with your password. Even if a hacker has your password, having your phone as another step in the process makes it harder for him or her to log into your account.

Another way to deter data thieves on public Wi-Fi is by blocking cookies and removing tracking in your browser. Avoid unsafe or untrusted software – especially if it sounds too good to be true.

If you’re still not sure whether your coffee shop or airport connection is safe, consider using your mobile hotspot. While this uses data and power, it’s a nice backup for quick online tasks. Because it’s a private connection, it’s much more difficult and less rewarding for a hacker to break into.

Don’t click on strange links. If you click on a post from a “friend” and it looks fishy, it probably is, and their account could be compromised. Sometimes you’ll see this in the form of messages claiming, “Check out what this person said about you!” with a link that redirects to a fake Facebook login page. If after clicking it takes you to a Facebook application that you’re hesitant about, there’s no reason to click through.

Keep an eye on the URL. Among the easiest of ways to tell if something is a social media scam is by looking at the URL of the page you land on. Anytime you see a Facebook login page, leave it and go to www.facebook.com in your browser to ensure you are logging in to the correct site.

The bottom line is to be on guard any time you see something suspicious. If you do happen to fall for a scam, change your password immediately. 

Patrick Tamburrino, the president of IT strategy, support and management firm tamburrino, inc. can be reached at patrick@tamburrino.com.

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