Social media security is not just for kids – how safe are your profiles?

The news is full of the risks children face on the internet, not just in terms of predators but also in terms of the rights they might be signing away. Their details and the rights to any images they post may be compromised, says a report from the UK’s Children’s Commissioner, entitled Growing Up Digital.

The commissioner calls for clearer terms and conditions so that kids are aware of what they’re getting into. No reasonable person would disagree with that, but you can’t help wondering whether adults could do with some education in the area as well.

A few years ago, for example, one of our contacts – an IT specialist, not someone who’d be technologically naive – went to a friend’s celebration and put pictures of the party on to Facebook.

A few weeks later he had a call from one of the people in the picture, who wanted to know why he’d allowed it to be used in Facebook’s advertising. He was shocked, but on checking the company’s terms and conditions he found it was entitled to use his images as it pleased.

Other adults put many personal details on to social media, overlooking the notion that they could be used for identity theft. Have you put your birthday on your social media profile? And if your family is on there, have you ticked the box allowing Facebook to quote your relationship to them? That could make your mother’s maiden name easy to find.

Now consider how many institutions use that name as a security question if you need to reset a password.

Robert Schifreen, himself an ex-hacker and the founder of SecuritySmart, offered Naked Security a few tips to check that your own social media profiles are reasonably secure:

  • Check your settings regularly to see which apps you have granted access to your social networks. Delete or revoke any that you no longer need.
  • It’s OK to lie about birthday and location – just keep a note of what you said in case you ever need to confirm with the network in question. Try using a different set of fibs on each site – it may help you track down the source of abuse or spam.
  • Many free sites do not ask for any proof of ID or address or credit card when someone joins, so you have no idea who anyone really is – even if they appear to be a friend or family member. If you ever need to prove someone’s ID, for example if they ask to borrow money or want a photo, ask them a question to which an impostor would not know the answer (and check that they can’t get the answer from your friend or relative’s social media feed).

The idea of protecting our kids on social media and ensuring they understand the ramifications of what they’re doing is welcome, always. The notion that only the very young are likely to make naive mistakes is plain wrong.