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Blog: Identity theft in broad daylight

Astrid Haug is an independent digital consultant who blogs at astridhaug.dk. Here, she writes about identity theft and hacking on social media – something that does not only happen to Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez.

With 126 million followers, the world’s most popular Instagrammer is singer Selena Gomez. In August, three nude photos of the singer’s ex-boyfriend Justin Bieber were posted on her account.

The problem was that Gomez was not the one who had posted them. Her account had been hacked. The singer was among the 1,000 celebrities whose emails and phone numbers had been leaked and subsequently sold online. The leak was caused by a safety breach on Instagram.

When we talk social media, most people probably think time theft rather than identity theft. For many of us, social media is associated with relaxing, family and friends. But being active on social media is not without risk. And you don’t have to be a worldwide popstar to fall victim to scams or hacking.

One of the methods used to infiltrate people’s computers is phishing. Here, a message is sent to you with a link to a site where you are lured into providing personal information such as credit card details or passwords. The site might also contain malware - software that can damage your computer or an entire network if, for example, you are on your work computer.

On social media, phishing can also occur via your network. This could for example be a new connection on LinkedIn. In these cases, it is important to be critical of the connections you accept. Having a mutual connection is not enough. Take a look at the profile. Does it look realistic? If you end up accepting someone who subsequently sends you a message with a link, be wary of clicking it.

Sometimes, the message will come from one of your “real” friends. Once in a while, I receive messages from friends on Facebook Messenger saying something like “watch video” and containing a link.

Rule number 1: Don’t click the link. If you are the one who has unwittingly sent spam to friends on Facebook, it is a good idea to change your password and then to delete some of the apps that are linked to your Facebook account.

Also send a message to friends who have received the spam message from you warning them not to click the link. We have a tendency to blindly click on whatever we receive from our friends. Scammers take advantage of this.

These methods not only pose a threat to you as an individual, but also to the company and its clients. It is therefore a good idea to train one’s employees in safe use of social media and the internet in general, so that you can take advantage of networking and knowledge sharing without paying a dear price.

It is also important to think about how much client data you collect. Avoid collecting more information than strictly necessary. Data security has become a parameter for a company’s competitiveness.

Fortunately, there are precautions you can take yourself. Most obvious is to regularly change your password. It’s a hassle, but there are a number of programs that can help you change and keep track of your passwords.  Secondly, it’s obvious - but nonetheless worth mentioning - that you should not send confidential information such as your personal identification number via Messenger and the like.

Beware of fake ads on Facebook. It’s easy to advertise on Facebook, so don’t click on links in ads from sources you do not know or do not trust.

Moreover, consider what information you provide on social media. You are not required to enter you date of birth, employer or family relations on Facebook.

You can also take control of what is posted on your wall and what content you are connected to - for example by reviewing your privacy settings and enabling “review tags” on Facebook and Instagram.  

When we talk social media, most people probably think time theft rather than identity theft.
DIGITAL CONSULTANT ASTRID HAUG
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PUBLISHED: 11/15/2017 LAST MODIFIED: 11/20/2017