As someone who reads the daily news, I was happy to see The Wall Street Journal and CBS Money Watch cover ProtectMyID.com’s recent study with the Ponemon Institute about social media and identity theft. The nationwide study found that despite knowing the risks of exposing sensitive information via social media sites, people do little or nothing to protect themselves.
These days, it seems that everyone is social networking. I see my friends’ tweets, view my parents’ vacation pictures on snapfish and was recently “friended” by my grandmother. So, what bothered me about these study results is that, while we all know that security is a concern, many of us engage in online behaviors that put our identities at risk! Here are just a few survey findings.
- Approximately 65 percent of users do not set high privacy or security settings in their social media sites.
- Approximately 40 percent of all respondents share their physical home address through social media applications.
- Surprisingly, people who have been victims of identity theft are just as likely to be lax in securing their personal information online. Study results from identity theft victims and non-victims are virtually identical. (Yikes!)
Thankfully, there are things we can do to protect our identities while still using social networks. ProtectMyID.com listed some good ones:
- Review and customize security settings – Research your social network’s default account settings and make sure to customize your personal privacy settings in order to only share information with people you choose. Approximately 65 percent of users do not use a high privacy or security setting.
- Pick a password that can’t be cracked – Do not choose a password that incorporates common information, such as a pet’s name or your hometown. Approximately 40 percent of those surveyed said they use a password known to individuals other than themselves.
- Log off when you leave – Always log off or enable a secure screen saver when you are away from your computer or it is not in use. More than 80 percent of respondents leave their computers unsecured.
- Install and update antivirus software – Make sure that your computer has antivirus software that is always up-to-date in order to maximize protection against keystroke loggers and other malware commonly used for identity theft. Nearly 70 percent of respondents stated that they do not use any form of antivirus protection on their computer.
- Make sure your wireless network connection is secure – If you are operating on a wireless network, always make sure that the network is secure to avoid exposing your personal information while it is in transmission. Approximately 75 percent of individuals said that they use an unsecured network.
Lesson learned: Stay social, but make sure to stay secure as well. It’s easy if you try.