If you’re like most other people, you spend half an hour or more every day on social media networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest, chatting with your contacts and learning about what’s trending around the world.

While there are plenty of helpful benefits of social media, both personally and for your career, there are some downsides that should be considered carefully. For example, when you use social media, you make yourself more vulnerable to cyberattacks. After all, with billions of people on the sites these days, hackers know they make ripe grounds for sourcing information like phone numbers, bank accounts, addresses, credit card numbers and more.

As such, if you want to stay safe when online in this way, you need to be smart. Read on for a selection of tips to follow to protect your personal information and ensure you’re safe from prying eyes.

Use Security Software

For starters, always have antivirus protection on your computers and install other security software that will protect you from threats like malware, ransomware, spyware, spam and the like. Take a look online and you will find dozens of software options to choose from, from basic products to comprehensive ones. Analyze the options and choose something that will keep you as protected as possible.

Apart from selecting a product that covers against various types of viruses and malware, you should also search for one that blocks things like harmful websites and phishing emails and data-stealing apps. As well, you want software that will safeguard all your personal information on the different social networking sites you use and which also includes a password manager, so you can easily set up different codes for various online accounts.

Be Cautious About What You Post Publicly

Remember that anything you post publicly can be viewed by not just your friends and family and other contacts but also cybercriminals. Thus, think before you post any kind of personal data about yourself and your family and/or business. Hackers mine these sites looking for details that could help them to work our passwords for websites and accounts and/or help them engage in identity theft.

Be especially wary of posting personal information that relates to your passwords or usernames. This includes things like your birth date (or that of you family members), the names of your pets or children, lucky numbers or words, where you were born, your mother’s maiden name and so on.

Understand the Scams Hackers Often Use

It’s also wise to educate yourself on the most commonly-used scams hackers employ to get information about people and organizations. For example, “pharming,” a particular type of phishing attack, is an often-used strategy on social media sites. In this trick, hackers post ads or other content online that is meant to look like it stems from legitimate companies and websites. The idea is that the people click on the links to be taken to legitimate sites, but in truth they end up on fake sites made to look real. The problem is if people go to sign up or login on these sites, hackers can see the usernames, emails and passwords used and can in-turn hijack accounts and get access to other personal data. To stay safe, only ever input login details on websites where you have directly typed the URL yourself.

Update Your Systems Often

Also note that systems become vulnerable when they are not updated regularly. Security gaps can form and, if you don’t update software, hackers can use these gaps to gain access to your systems. As such, to secure your data, keep all security software, firewalls, browsers, operating systems, apps and plug-ins updated. Set up everything to update automatically, so you don’t have to remember to manually check for new versions.

Use Solid Passwords

Lastly, as unbelievable as it might seem in this online world where cybercriminals are rife, many people still don’t use proper passwords, instead opting for common codes such as “123456” or “password.” If you don’t want to be hacked, ensure the codes you use to log in to social media sites and elsewhere are strong. These should be hard for hackers to crack, at least eight characters long. Make them up of a variety of numbers, letters (upper and lower-case) and symbols, to be most secure and change them every few months for maximum security.

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