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What is up with all the social media hacks this week?

I know it’s been bad for a long time, but several author friends have been hacked just this week alone — and it’s getting worse. How can we prevent this? We can’t.

It’s really up to Twitter and the other sites to get serious about finding who these spammers and hackers are to keep our accounts safe. I’m not a computer expert, but I do know social media. Here are a few things you can do to make every effort to keep your account safe:

DON’T GIVE OUT YOUR PERSONAL INFO ON ANY SOCIAL MEDIA SITES — EVER

This seems like an obvious one, but don’t give out where you were born — city and state, especially — ever, in a public forum. There’s currently a game going around Facebook that asks you to share your city and state and I have to say, I’m shocked at how many people are giving up that information. It’s an easy way for identity thieves to know information that we regularly have to provide to credit cards and banks. Why on earth would you share that? But hundreds are. It’s littering my wall and I’m sure, yours as well.

PASSWORDS

Passwords need to be at least 8 characters, though new updates say 10 to 12 is better, and should contain a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols (i.e., Water*2bottle). This is especially critical for Twitter, which seems to have hacking/phishing programs that are extraordinarily active lately.

LINKS

Don’t click on any link in a DM. Even if you know the person, they may have been hacked. If you’re not sure, DM them back and confirm that they’ve sent you that DM with the link.

Same with Facebook, Google+, or anywhere else you can converse with folks privately. DMs are particularly deceptive since the messages are something like ‘I recommend this fabulous site http://fakesite.com” and once you click, they have you. Just like that.

EMAIL

Not social media, but worth mentioning. How many fake emails have you received from China or Africa telling you that you’ve won a million bucks? Obviously fake, right? Hackers have gotten smart, though, and they will tell you that your account has been compromised and to click here to change your password. If you do that, you could end up with a virus that eats your data or allows them access to all your personal information.

Never click on an email link that asks for any kind of personal information or tells you that you’ve been hacked, even if it looks legit. They are phishing, in other words. Call the original company or site instead, or go to their website from Google or another search engine to connect to their customer service. Never click on the link in the email — it’s like an open invitation to send a virus.

APPS

Twitter suggests in their Help section that if you’ve been hacked, you need to review ALL of the apps that have access to your account (most don’t need your password, just that you authorize them). If you’ve been hacked, you need to immediately change your password, delete the offending spam/phishing messages, review your apps and revoke if necessary, and send a report to Twitter, Facebook, etc.

I also recommend a message on your timeline or wall to let people know you’ve been hacked and to not click on any direct or private messages from you if they seem like spam (thus, the deleting of the spammy messages) once you give the okay (and be sure to give the okay). Sadly, it happens so frequently, it’s not that big of a deal for your followers. We get it. We aren’t mad at you.

HTTPS

For complete tech-head info, check out this great article from Mashable on the difference between http and https:

The encryption within HTTPS is intended to provide benefits like confidentiality, integrity and identity. Your information remains confidential from prying eyes because only your browser and the server can decrypt the traffic. Integrity protects the data from being modified without your knowledge. We’ll address identity in a bit.

Suffice it to say that if you look in the URL when you go to any site, see if it’s http or has the added S = secure (ha, kinda). You can choose it as an option on both Facebook and Twitter, and I highly recommend you do. You can also add the https to your browser by visiting their plug-in or app store (most are free).

If you follow all of these guidelines, can you still be hacked? You bet. Hackers and phishing scams are smart. But at least you can arm yourself with these hints.

Got questions? Ask me. If I can’t answer, I’ll find someone who can!

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