What to Watch out for … Because Others are Watching You!
Written by: Carl Forkner
Professionally edited by Kitty Carlisle
You may have heard the adage that “the world is flat.” What this refers to is the notion that the long distances one used to have to travel, the time it took for “snail mail” to travel from sender to recipient or trying to gauge when to be awake for a long-distance phone call has been replaced by near-instantaneous communication among much of the world through technology. Layered on top of the technology revolution emerged the advent of social media—with over 150 major and minor social media platforms now available for free to anyone who can access the Internet or cellular signal, it has become a primary means of sharing content worldwide.
Much like the hacking attacks that have recently occurred against Internet service providers (ISPs) and major hubs in the United States, social media platforms can be easily hacked through either technology schemes (viruses, malware, etc.) or through social engineering (psychological means to get users to click on a link or file containing the viruses, malware, or other disruptive or destructive scripting. Social media popularity has resulted in the implementation of a new social engineering tool—spoofing your account to gain access to information from your friends and connections, who will think they are replying to you and not the hacker. What kind of information would you provide to a friend?
Protecting Yourself Across Online Platforms
When many people think about online protection, their concern typically turns toward identity theft as a primary—or sole—issue. Social media brought a new tool to hackers—the ability not only to steal your identity, but also the threat of damaging your personal or professional reputation. Whether identity or reputation, failure to protect your social media accounts may lead to negative consequences.
Passwords. It is a good practice to change your password at least every 6 months. A strong, difficult to hack password comprises a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Guidelines for a strong password include:
- At least 8 characters
- At least 1 capital letter
- At least 1 small letter
- At least 1 number
- At least 1 special character, such as: ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( )
Do you have trouble remembering all your passwords? Try the free application for your smartphone called Keeper that stores your passwords and account information securely in an encrypted file. If someone tries to hack into it, the program erases all your stored account data on the fifth unsuccessful attempt.
Challenge Questions. How difficult is it in today’s technology-enabled environment for people to find out information about you? Much of the information is in the public domain, but, for a small price, details about your life can easily be found. Guidelines for challenge questions include:
- Do NOT use *real* answers! Real answers tell more about you if hackers get into your account.
- Devise creative answers to the questions and keep your answers where only you have access to them.
Social Media Tips for the Career Seeker (and Working Professionals)
In today’s connected environment, more and more companies are concerned with the image that employees present on social media platforms. From the business perspective, your reputation reflects on the company’s image. Whether you are currently in a career transition or working, there are some general tips to protect how others view you as a professional.
Birthday. Many platforms require you to enter a birthday when establishing an account; this is necessary. However, when entering information into the profile accessible to viewers, you should never use your full birth date. Only use the month and year of your birthday if you want it to be recognized and receive birthday greetings from friends. Using the birth year not only give potential identity thieves another piece of your identity puzzle, but also identifies you as too young or too old to prospective employers.
- LinkedIn. Never use your birthday information in the Personal Details section—the platform is for business, not socializing and dating. Also, for over 99% of positions, Human Resources and Hiring Managers cannot legally ask for your age except to determine if you meet minimum legal age requirements. You do not want to give away information they are not legally able to ask during the hiring process!
Location. Never use your full address on social media sites. All you need to include on your viewable profile is a city and state (and zip code for LinkedIn). For career seekers, the purpose of including your location is to assess whether you can commute or will need to move to accept a new job. When you fill out an application you will include the full address. Also, especially for single people, including your address may set you up for a burglary or other home-related crime.
Photographs. A picture says a thousand words—sometimes good, sometimes not. Here are three rules to help you look professional and help keep you safe:
- Never use provocative pictures. Avoid the “Big Four” contentious areas—drinking/drugs, politics, religion, and sex—because even a seemingly innocuous post can tarnish your image.
- Never use pictures showing your valuables. Even for profile pictures, having expensive jewelry on may entice a criminal looking for a profitable target to select you. Because your home likely has valuable items, using a professional photograph without your personal property in the background is safest.
- Never use pictures showing your car and license plate or your home with the address showing. Again, you do not want either a criminal or someone who is mad at you to know this information.
Phone Number. This is good for your business associates or friends, but remember, telemarketers can get it on social media, too! However, on LinkedIn, the Contact Info section is a second layer of the site—robots searching for phone numbers do not see that area. Put your phone number there so connections can find it—do not put it in your Summary or Advice to Contact sections where it can be found by robots.
Social media provides myriad opportunities for both personal and professional engagement. It also provides insights that help others form assumptions about your reputation or how well you may fit into their company culture. There are both opportunities and challenges, but they can be managed to your advantage with some attention to detail and security.
|Social media can be lots of fun||Social media can be dangerous|
|Social media can be productive||Social media can be destructive|
The Bottom Line: In today’s interconnected environment, social media can enhance your reputation … or damage it. Be careful what you post and focus on success!