Updated at 12:45 p.m. on Jan. 9, 2017
Just a few days ago, I witnessed an “Instadrama.” A famous blogger with more than 500,000 followers lost access to her Instagram account, which was evidently hacked with malicious intention. Hundreds of personal videos – years of artistic work – were lost in a matter of hours. It was a disastrous occasion in today’s information society.
Today, nearly half the global population are active Internet users. More than 2 billion people worldwide have at least one social media account. Facebook alone adds six new profiles every second.
Journalists, both mainstream and citizen, exploit social media for both personal and professional reasons. A 2014 study on journalists’ usage of social media showed that they followed newsmakers, checked for breaking news, found sources and looked for new ideas for their stories. Forty percent of study respondents said social is “very important” to their jobs, and more than a third spend at least 30 minutes on social networks every day.
But ordinary users, journalists and bloggers are also prone to social media-related risks – mainly, loss of password by social engineering, brute force or dictionary attack method, unauthorized access and hacking. These risks stretch from innocent fun to serious reputational damage, financial troubles and even legal persecution in the event that a hacked account is used for committing a crime. Journalists may additionally suffer from their sources being compromised and sensitive information released.
Some effective measures to stay safe online include customized privacy settings, mindful personal data sharing and a “think-before-you-click” policy, but these five software tools can also help improve your social media protection:
The most common mistake one can make is to have a simple and obvious password or use one single password for all accounts – from Internet banking to an email account. SplashData’s annual list gathers millions of stolen passwords and lists them by popularity. The top five include “123456,” “password,” “12345,” “12345678” and “qwerty.”
LastPass is a freemium password management service that stores encrypted passwords in the cloud. The service is able to save existing passwords as well as generate new ones. It provides two-factor authentication, and the only password a user has to remember and never lose is a master password for the LastPass itself. Your password should ideally be 16 digits and contain at least one number, one uppercase letter, one lowercase letter and one special symbol. The strength of a password can be measured by the Password Meter. Experts recommend changing the master password once every 10 weeks.
LogDog is a free product designed to track any suspicious activity related to social media accounts. The system continuously scans various indicators of unauthorized access. When an attack is detected, LogDog sends intrusion alerts and lets users take back control over their accounts. Currently, it’s only available for Android devices. Also, some social networks like Facebook allow you to receive an alert when anyone logs into the account from a new device or browser. This feature must be switched on.
If devices used for social media access are shared with others or frequently taken to public places, it is better to protect them with an extra security layer by encrypting the traffic from a browser to a social network. HTTPS Everywhere is a free browser extension that switches websites from HTTP (unsecured) to HTTPS (secured).
AVG PrivacyFix is a free application that helps users to adjust privacy settings for Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter and also block unwanted tracking. It’s currently available for Chrome, Android and iOS.
Update: PrivacyFix has been discontinued and is no longer being maintained. For a look at how to secure your accounts manually, check out this guide of alternatives.
Digi.me (formerly SocialSafe)
Another freemium tool, Digi.me is designed to store social media data in case all information is lost as a result of hacking. It allows you to back up and view content from up to four of your social media accounts.
Image CC-licensed by Flickr via Ken Chan.