Staying Safe on Social Media

The recent global cyber attacks should make us all think a little more about our own cyber security. It isn't just large public sector organisations and multi-national enterprises that are being targeted.


Isn't it strange how we say we are concerned with online privacy - for example we generally tend nowadays to set stronger security settings and disclose less personal information, yet many of us never check our security settings on social media.


Take Facebook for example. We often discuss (and demonstrate!) during our Personal Safety workshops the ease with which others can see (in some cases) all of your Facebook content: your posts; the photos of your friends and family, including the ones of your cute children; those embarrassing shots from holidays years ago! Some of us work with clients who may be challenging or bear a grudge. Do you really want them to be able to see all your Facebook content?


Research carried out recently by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Nathalie Nahai for an article for the Harvard Business Review (Why We’re so Hypocritical about Online Privacy, May 1st 2017) shows that approximately 40% of Facebook content is shared according to (fairly unsafe and insecure) default settings, and that users’ expectations of their own privacy settings match reality in only one third of cases. This is quite shocking.


So why is this the case? Some Facebook users are genuinely unaware that Facebook’s default settings are that everyone can see everything; maybe they do not realise the risks. Others are aware of the perceived risks, but somehow believe that those risks do not apply to themselves; only to others. Another explanation may be that the perceived benefits of using free sites and disclosing considerable personal data outweigh the perceived risks.


There is however lots of advice available to keep yourself protected on Facebook and other social media:

  • Think about whom you add and who you want to access your information.
  • Ask yourself - why are you on Facebook? What do you want to achieve with your profile? - Keep in touch with people? Share photos? Share updates and links? You can always add or remove options.
  • Think about your passwords. Avoid using the same passwords on all accounts.
  • Check that the computer that you sign in from does not automatically store your email and password (even though it may be very convenient).
  • Be careful what you say in status updates. Do you really want everyone to know that you are going on holiday for two weeks and that your house will be empty? I always tell delegates on our workshops that they should never post anything on Facebook that they would not want to see displayed in their living-room window!
  • Be alert about Phishing. There have been many attempts recently to get users to give up their log-in details and passwords by tricking them with fake emails from Facebook. Never select email links asking you to click to reset your password. Always go straight to Facebook.
  • Take immediate action if friends receive spam from you. If you think that this has happened, immediately change your password. If you can’t log into your account, go to the Help link at the bottom of any Facebook page and click on Security to notify Facebook about your account.
  • Look at the Facebook page on privacy basics - safety@Facebook 
  • Use the Audience Selector tool to select who sees what you share.
  • Use the View As tool when logging onto Facebook on a computer to see what your profile looks like to others.
  • Use Tag Review and Timeline Review to help you control who sees what you post and what posts appear on your timeline.
  • Tag Review allows you to approve or dismiss tags that friends add to your posts.
  • Timeline Review lets you decide whether posts that you are tagged in appear on your timeline.
  • Spend some time looking at the Facebook Help Centre.


Facebook has changed its settings to share information publicly. It is therefore wise to spend a few minutes going through your own settings periodically and amending where necessary.  


If you have not seen this before spend a couple of minutes looking at the following clip on YouTube - Take this Lollipop. It raises awareness!


In addition to social media there are some more general things you can do to protect your online privacy such as:

  • Remove cookies from your browser.
  • Regularly check your computer for spyware.
  • Delete your browser history.
  • Do not allow external apps to access your data.


If you have children much help is available to protect them online too, including the CEOP site (Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre


If you run a business you may like to access Cyber Essentials (, a free government resource and certification scheme, and get good basic protection in place.


For more information about how we can help with personal safety contact us today.

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