Preventing & Identifying Social Media Threats

Updated Sep 08, 2020

There are many ways to keep yourself safe online. With safe computing practices in mind, you can have a good, risk-free experience on the Internet and social media. Have fun, and make sure to add BYU-Idaho IT on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter while you are at it! 


Identifying online threats

Always exercise conscientiousness and good judgement when it comes to opening emails and clicking links. Spam and phishing emails often give themselves away if you know what to look for, so keep an eye out for the following signs of phishing and spam: 

  • Social media messages from a friend telling you to sign up for a specific product to earn money. These are usually hackers who have broken into your friend’s account and are trying to steal your information. Facebook now offers the ability to run applications, but be cautious when running these applications as they may contain viruses. 
  • Obvious grammar or spelling mistakes
  • Pop-ups saying things that sound “too good to be true” (I.e., a job offer that pays more than it should, a free giveaway, a prize for a contest that you never signed up for). These are attempts to get your personal information–so don’t give it out! 
  • LimeWire and other websites (collectively known as P2P programs) that allow you to download media illegally. While they can be used for legal downloads, they seldom are. More often, these sites are full of viruses. They are also against the Honor Code. 
  • Pornographic material. Anything that causes person to think inappropriately about another person’s body is pornography. It doesn't have to contain nudity to be considered pornographic. Pornography is often full of viruses, and furthermore, it is an obvious Honor Code violation. 
  • Places where you can watch movies online for free, especially new and unreleased movies. 
  • Links that do not open to the stated destination. Hover over links to verify that the underling hyperlink is known and valid. 
  • Messages from someone you do not know

Online dos & don'ts

Common sense your first line defense in maintaining a safe, secure online presence. Here are some of the main dos and don'ts of social media and Internet use.

Dos

  • Use a web filter to keep you from accidentally going to unwanted websites. Be sure to enable an updated antivirus program, and keep it running! 
  • Avoid falling prey to phishing scams. Phishing sites are sites that are made to mimic a trustworthy site in order to obtain personal information.  
  • Secure your social media profiles by using all available privacy settings. 
  • Limit the number of people who can view your profiles. Ideally, your profile will only be visible to those you have personally added to your network. 
  • Be selective in who you add to your network. 
  • Be careful about the photos you post. Make sure that your photos do not contain any sensitive information (such as addresses) in the background. 
  • Disconnect access and delete accounts for apps you no longer use. 

Don'ts

  • Open any spam message. If you do not know who a message is from, be very cautious. 
  • Accept friend/follow requests from people you do not know, even if you have mutual friends. 
  • Announce vacations, business trips, or other prolonged absences from your home on social media. 
  • Give out personal information (e.g., addresses, phone numbers, credit card information, debit card numbers) on your profile or any other public place. (An exception for this can be made for LinkedIn, but make sure to keep your LinkedIn profile private so that only direct contacts can see this information.) 
  • Give out login credentials to anyone. 
  • Use the same password for all your accounts. 

Securing your computer while using search engines

While search engines are treasure troves of information that certainly make our lives easier, they are also a breeding ground for criminals and malware infection. Some malware is specifically designed to hide within search results. We must learn to identify a suspicious link/website and avoid the malware lurking within it. Here are some ways to minimize the risk of contracting a computer virus and some things to watch for when navigating the wild world of the Internet. 

  • Do not include personal information in your search queries, such as addresses, full names, or card numbers. Search engines keep a record of your search queries. This is how they do things like autocomplete your searches using terms that you have searched for before.    
  • Regularly clear your search history in order to wipe your browser’s memory of any sensitive information that might be on your computer. 
  • Try to block the installation of cookies on your browser. Typically, before a cookie is installed, a dialog box will pop up asking you to agree to the installation. Always refuse permission for this download. 
  • Be suspicious of sudden pop-ups and unsolicited page redirects. If these strike while you are browsing, close out of them immediately. 
  • Trust your gut. If you find a website and think it looks or feels suspicious, it probably is. Be leery of misspellings, low-quality page images, or excessive demands for personal information. All of these could be red flags. 

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