LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 20, 2023) — We don’t often think twice about sharing information on social media. It’s common to post about major milestones like accepting a new job, moving or sharing vacation and birthday photos.
But this Cybersecurity Month, University of Kentucky Information Technology Services (UK ITS) wants everyone to be cautious when sharing personal information online. Whether sharing on social media or on dating apps, it’s important to consider the consequences if your confidential information is obtained by cybercriminals. Publishing too many specific details is risky and can result in break-ins, monetary loss or in some cases, put your safety at risk.
Although many potential risks are associated with oversharing on social media, UK ITS has recommendations to help you be mindful of cybersecurity while being safe online.
Review your privacy settings. Make sure your social media profiles are private. It never hurts to review your privacy settings and check what others can see by viewing your profile as public. You can also limit past posts and be sure to never turn on live location.
UK ITS Cybersecurity Analyst Jackie Campbell said strict privacy settings are key to limiting who can see your posts.
“Even if you think you are only sharing with friends, their permissions may allow others, or anyone, to ‘follow’ them and see your posts,” Campbell said.
Although viewing a post or two may not seem significant, Campbell said those small snapshots can add up.
“The ‘Mosaic Effect’ is when harmless pieces of information can be assembled to create a revealing picture or form assumptions about you. This information, once posted, cannot be retracted. Even if the post is deleted, a simple screen capture can copy and save it in seconds,” she said.
Don’t accept follow requests from strangers.
Campbell said, “Exposing personal details about you such as: how old you are, where you go to school, where you live, what you enjoy doing and where you enjoy doing it can be dangerous.” Make sure that you limit your social media to people you know.
Remember that stories and Snapchats do not disappear.
Many people choose to post stories on Snapchat because the photos and videos can only be viewed for 24 hours. Remember that once you post, it can be retained on the social media company’s server.
Campbell said, “Photos are sent through the Snapchat server and saved in a hidden file. When viewed, they can be deleted, but if not viewed, they remain in the server for a certain amount of time. Snapchat states in their terms and conditions that they have the ‘right to retain the message if they want to.'”
Don’t post when you are out of town. It may sound overly cautious, but even with privacy settings turned on, you might be surprised to learn that photos contain information cybercriminals are looking for.
“Innocent photos of your vacation contain metadata with GPS location information and, if someone isn’t stalking you on vacation, they will know your home is most likely vacant,” according to Campbell.
“It’s much safer to share photos once you return from vacation,” Campbell said.
Be aware of cyberstalking. If someone uses electronic communication to threaten or harass another person, that is cyberstalking. October, in addition to being National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and most people experiencing some form of intimate partner violence have reported being tracked by spyware, social media or even on dating websites. Don’t respond to threatening messages and change your passwords. If you are in danger, call 911. Cyberstalking is a crime, and you should also contact the FBI.
Prevent identity theft or fraud. Cybercriminals only need a few bits of information to apply for services or something even more serious like a line of credit in your name. If you share your birthday, address, interests and other unique identifying information, this information can easily be sold on the dark web.
Limit information shared on dating apps too. Don’t link your social media accounts, share too many interests or other personal information through dating apps. Dating scammers can use this information in romance scams. It’s a ploy used by scammers to earn your trust and then convince you to send money. Be wary of people who immediately ask to message you privately — away from dating site platforms. In the U.S., romance scams are widespread and caused financial losses of about $527 million dollars in 2021, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Overall, it’s best to limit the information you share on social media no matter which platform you use. Practicing good cybersecurity habits can help protect your personal information and give you peace of mind in the long run.
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