In today’s world, social networks with millions of users have become essential for both personal and professional reasons.

And most social gatherings and activities, like networking, meet ups, conference calls, texting, playing video games with each other – the list goes on – have begun to take place on these social networking sites.

With all this activity on social media, unfortunately there are negative impacts that come along for the ride. One of the biggest concerns is security.

Users compromise themselves by sharing their personal information, and often that information is open to hackers, bots and other nefarious types that are looking to gain from stealing your info or impersonating your account.

Identity fraud is where unauthorized persons enter information for their sinister intentions and use it for personal gain.

Identity theft is not a new concept, but the advent of social media growth has opened up new doors for cyber criminals.

Thieves, through the years, have searched for opportunities to gain personal information from individuals, such as taking mail from mailboxes or looking through victims’ garbage. Now, social media networks make it easier for cyber thieves to access this info without having to leave the comfort of your computer desk.

Attackers often target applications that require permission from the user. The intruder may access and manipulate the user’s information when the user permits access to his or her information unwittingly. Identity fraud is commonly targeted at stealing user passwords and individuals’ bank account records, social security numbers and other important info. The tools actively used in identity fraud are phishing and malware.

So, what can you do for ensuring security when using social media platforms?

Fortunately, there are multiple things you can put in place to add a level of security and help you avoid falling victim to fraud. Let’s take a look at a few easy-to-implement actions you can take to ensure your social media safety.

Make sure to use a VPN

After WhatsApp’s Personal Data Processing crisis that recently gave rise to concerns among users, Facebook, as the giant of social media platforms and owner of Whatsapp, attracted a huge response from all over the world.

While people try to protect their data, they are searching for alternative apps because they no longer trust Facebook in general (look back to the Cambridge Analytica scandal as well) and also apply different methods for Internet security. The safest one of these is using a VPN for hiding user information, IP address, and personal data.

VPNs are designed for complete anonymity, and what companies such as Facebook look for is to retrieve as much of your personal data as possible for advertising purposes and so on.

If you want to ensure your privacy while using Facebook and other social media channels, choosing a safe (and free) VPN can be an effective solution. In this way, you can try and see the benefits of using a VPN for free and decide what to do in the future.

No more weak passwords!

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it needs to be said. Choosing easy-to-guess passwords happens all-too-often.

Never pick simple passwords such as 123456, 987654, day of birth, year of birth, your children’s names, etc.

Most social networks will give you a strong suggestion to upgrade the complexity of your password if you try to go wit something too simple, so take these alerts into account. We also suggest that you should not save your password on your desktop or whatever mobile device you are using. Just log back in each time you sign in.

A password manager can also be used. I suggest taking a look at password managers like Dashlane, Sticky Password, Keeper Safe, Password Boss Premium.

Tools like these will offer you an extra layer of protection when you sign into your accounts. You can manage the username details across various accounts and channels with most password managers.

Is your Two-Step Authentication feature on?

There is also a “two-step verification” feature on most social media sites.

Let’s say your account is compromised. You will be promptly notified via SMS or another application when someone is using your password and you will be asked to enter a code.

To officially login in with two-step-authentication, you will need to enter that code, and since you will likely be the only one with access to your mobile device, this will help secure your account.

Thus, even though your password is intercepted by another user, your social media account will not be “hacked” if you do not disclose the code in the text sent to your mobile or other device.

Don’t forget to log out on shared devices

At work, are you using a company laptop? Or any mobile device that is shared with other employees?

Company devices are the riskiest, especially if you have not signed out of your social media profiles

You can make your accounts more secure by opting to log out once you walk away from the device or each time you’re dong using your social media accounts.

Make a habit of it. Use the same vigilance in public places such as restaurants and cafes when connecting to the web (but keep in mind you should avoid using public wi-fi when possible anyway).

Be careful with software social media API integrations

The Application Programming Interface (API) is a platform that enables the use of software capabilities (such as YouTube, Facebook, Google, WordPress, MailChimp, Android) via outside applications.

Everyone knows that there are apps that aim to take control of your profile through the API like social bots, and applications on your desktop and mobile device.

With just a single query, they can also get complete permission from your account. So, they may submit likes and comments from your profile even though they did not hack your password.

Be sure you carefully select which bots, apps and other technology have any level of access to your info or the ability to utilize your accounts.

Enable the removal of permission from ‘apps’ in your settings to prevent anything bad from happening.

If you are using a social media management tool, like HootSuite or Facebook, Instagram or Twitter bots that post automatically on your behalf, for instance, you may need to allow certain control to the app to benefit fully from its features. When this happens, just be sure you fully understand what you are giving up, and do some research to make sure you totally trust the app.

Wrapping it up

Social media is such a valuable tool. Whether you are on social media for personal use, or you are active because it’s a part of your profession, you need to exercise a high-level of caution and focus on security concerns.

Avoid leaving your social media accounts open to hackers, as they can steal some seriously important information and leave you in a bad spot.

Take steps like using a VPN, setting up a hard-to-guess password and watching out for your integrations, and you will be well-positioned to use social media with the peace of mind knowing you are safe and off-limits to hackers.