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Phoenix Forward magazine

5 ways to prevent hacking in social media

Be smart online to prevent hacking

You log in to your Facebook® page only to find strange and offensive photos littering your timeline. Then you log in to your online bank account and find it empty.

Long story short, you’ve been hacked. But chances are it could have been prevented.

“The biggest IT security threat, especially in social media, is the users themselves,” says Eugene Kaufman, an IT systems security specialist and area chair for risk management in the University of Phoenix MBA program. Here are five ways you can protect yourself:

Log out

Log out.

Sign off social media and any other password-sensitive accounts, such as your bank statement, when you’re away from your computer or mobile device. If you don’t, anyone passing by can take over and pretend they’re you.

“In one of my former companies, an employee logged in to Facebook from the office, [then stepped away from his computer],” Kaufman explains. “Then another co-worker wandered by the employee’s desk, saw his open Facebook page and posted lots of embarrassing stuff on it” that upset the target’s Facebook friends.

Most hackers don't try to break down the firewalls or security protections, according to Kaufman. Instead, he says, “they simply trick a user into letting them in without a fight.” Hackers also cannot access any devices that are turned off, so that’s another good way to protect yourself, he notes.

Don't download free software

Don’t download free software.

All those free social media games, apps and toolbars can come at a price — access to your computer, Kaufman says. “Malicious software doesn’t just appear,” he says. “It has to be installed.”

Hackers using the so-called Trojan horse method offer “free” online software they hope you’ll download, which is actually malware in disguise. The software can then allow the hacker to access sensitive information or take over your computer or mobile device.

Use anti-virus programs

Use anti-virus programs.

Subscribing to quality anti-virus software such as Norton™ AntiVirus, McAfee® security programs or Trend Micro™ Titanium Antivirus is a worthwhile investment, Kaufman emphasizes.

“Most of the subscription-based anti-virus software programs check to make sure your computer [or device] has not been hijacked by malware,” he notes.

Heed an erratic browser

Heed an erratic browser.

Recognize clues that your computer or social media accounts may have been compromised. “If your account looks different from when you left it, or you start noticing your Internet browser taking you to sites you’ve never seen before, you’ve probably been hacked,” Kaufman says.

He recommends that you immediately change all your account passwords using a virus-free computer — one you’re sure hasn’t been compromised — and notify network administrators of online accounts that you’ve been hacked.

Beware of phishing scams

Beware of phishing scams.

Scams that attempt to get control of your sensitive personal information are spread via email and social media messaging services, Kaufman warns.

If you get a suspicious email claiming to be from your bank or another service provider, forward it to the institution you think is being impersonated for evaluation, Kaufman advises.

“These emails look like they come from companies or services you routinely use,” he explains. “They will start out by telling you your account has been compromised, then tell you to email them your password.

"Don’t ever respond to those. No self-respecting IT professional will ever ask you for your password.”

Facebook is a registered trademark of Facebook Inc.
Norton AntiVirus is a registered trademark of Symantec Corp.
McAfee is a registered trademark of McAfee Inc. or its subsidiaries in the U.S. and other countries.
Trend Micro is a trademark of Trend Micro Inc.

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