The following is a guest post written by Cassie Phillips. Her bio is at the end.
You probably have social media accounts connected to your blog. If you don’t, then you should. They are a fantastic way to connect more with your audience and potentially get new regular readers. They are additional channels to deliver your content, and for the most part, they cost nothing but your time to maintain.
Yet there are certain security risks associated with social media that you need to know about and defend against. Scammers and malware distributors will do whatever they can to make a quick dollar, and if your accounts are somehow compromised, your blog could tank fast. In some ways, your reputation is being staked on the security and content of your social media profiles.
That being said, there are plenty of ways to protect yourself, and you have nothing to fear if you take the proper precautions. Security habits and tools have been created for nearly any situation.
Here are some of the best ways to protect yourself and your blog on social media:
Protect your computer and browser before anything else
If your computer is compromised by malware or other hackers, your social media accounts and even your website itself could go next in a matter of hours. Make sure to lock down any device associated with your blog or social media accounts by doing the following:
- Install security software on all of your main devices, and make sure that you pick out a good one. You get what you pay for, and there are plenty of bad products on the market more interested in your money or data than your security.
- Try to avoid toolbars and other extensions in your browsers. If they don’t open your browser directly to data-stealing malware, they can certainly cause you more inconvenience than they’re worth. Stick to a handful of trusted programs.
- Try to avoid potentially dangerous websites and obvious scams. Even visiting the wrong website can set you on a path to social media disaster.
- Update your computer and programs as soon as possible. Hackers like to take advantage of the couple of days in between the patch release and when you download it. Once a vulnerability is patched, it is highlighted to cybercriminals around the world.
- Keep up to date with the latest security trends and threats. Adjust your habits as necessary.
Avoid public networks
One particular threat to your blog and related social media accounts is hackers on public networks. No public network is safe, and all a hacker needs is a laptop with a few simple programs to intercept anything you send and receive over the network.
This can include the login credentials and other verification measures to your social media accounts and even your blog itself. Needless to say, if you find yourself the victim of one of these attacks, you will be in trouble. They even might happen outside of your conscious use — smartphones automatically connect to WiFi (please disable that feature) and social media accounts automatically check for updates.
What you will want to do is install a VPN on your devices and use one whenever you’re out in public. It allows you to mask your IP address and encrypt your connection on any network, keeping it safe from hackers and people hoping to track you online. Unfortunately your other options are limited, as most defenses are useless against this particular threat.
Have a clear policy
This is important if you have employees or guest bloggers in charge of your social media accounts. Make sure that you have clear guidelines (even just to remind yourself) as to what you expect from your interactions. The specifics should be left up to you but having a clear policy to refer to is essential.
This way of thinking allows you to have a clear purpose with your accounts. If anyone deviates, you can take action and say that warnings were given. Remember that unwanted attention or security risks could directly impact your reputation.
Check comments and messages
This is a general tip as much as it is a security tip, but you should keep up and be cautious of any comments and messages you receive on your social media accounts. They might contain malicious content or links that can lead to your computer getting infected or your readers finding danger on your page.
You have a responsibility to keep things as safe as you can. Delete anything you don’t find appropriate, but do keep legitimate criticism. You don’t want to find yourself the target of even more abuse.
Don’t be controversial (unless you mean to)
Putting a target on your back when you are just a single blogger isn’t something you should take lightly. If you write something inflammatory and share it on social media, you open yourself to abuse and your social media accounts could come under attack. Your blog might even become the victim of a DDOS attack.
Write what you need to write, but be careful. Social media behaves unpredictably, and while negative attention is indeed attention, the long-terms effects can damage your reputation. Don’t fan flames you know you’re setting.
You should also know that leaving fires unattended is just as controversial. You need to warn people as to what’s going on. We can take a look at the Target credit card hack, for example, to see what went wrong. They didn’t notify customers until much later, enraging those who had figured it out.
While you are unlikely to endanger anyone’s information if your account gets hacked, letting them know might allow them to avoid obscene materials.
Take responsibility and react quickly
We also learned from the Target hack that covering cybercrime victimhood up only makes things worse. That is especially the case if one of your social media accounts gets attacked. It’s too public for people to ignore, so just deleting previous posts and acting like nothing happened won’t help. People take screenshots.
Last year, Delta Airlines had to handle of hack of its Facebook page. After a hacker group with potential ties to terrorist organizations attacked the website, it reacted quickly and decisively to remove the offending post and offered an apology to its customers on Twitter. While there was some coverage of the matter, it is now mostly forgotten. Once the matter is done, bolster your social media security and move on.
When it comes to security, social media isn’t a walk in the park. Each platform is different and juggling all of your accounts can be difficult.
Don’t let this discourage you from using tools. The blogging world is crowded and you need to take advantage of every opportunity to stand out. Protecting yourself is just a matter of habit and initiative.
Do you have any specific fears regarding social media and your security? Have you heard of any horror stories or have you had to fend off any specific threats yourself? Let us know in the comments below and continue this important conversation.
Cassie Phillips is an Internet security enthusiast who enjoys researching important information and sharing her knowledge with others.