Whether you got a new job, some new digs or just want to post a cool selfie, chances are you’ve shared what you’ve been up to on social media. Communication channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram make sharing information fast and easy.
Sharing what you’re doing might sound innocent, but your friends and followers aren’t the only ones paying attention. Social media hackers are also taking interest in your updates to see what they can exploit. Something as simple as sharing your phone number with a friend on Facebook could be used by social media hackers.
“Once information is posted to a social networking site, it is no longer private,” said Efrat Cohen, a private investigator and a certified identity theft risk management specialist with Global Intelligence Consultants. “The more information you post, the more vulnerable you may become. Even when using high security settings, friends or websites may inadvertently leak your information.”
To help you play it safe, here’s a list of things you should never share on social media.
1. Your Phone Number
You wouldn’t dare broadcast your phone number to complete strangers, so why would you share your digits on social media? Although you might think you’re just innocently sharing with friends, social media hackers want your digits, too.
According to Jeff Bernstein, managing director of T&M Protection Resources in New York, social media hackers want phone numbers because they are unique identifiers that typically last a long time. “Obtaining a target’s phone number provides an attacker with a platform to obtain additional information about the user targeted and to launch further attacks against the user and also others from within their trusted social networks.”
For example, hackers can type your phone number into a Facebook search to find your profile page if you have it listed, said Bernstein. This could lead to theft, fraud and misrepresentation. Hackers might also bypass security and use your phone number as a caller I.D. to send text messages that ask recipients to unknowingly click on a malware link, according to MarketWatch. So, always keep your phone number private instead of broadcasting it on social media.
2. Your Home Address
To avoid burglars showing up at your home would be one reason not to share your home address on social media. However, social media hackers aren’t looking to just rob your home — they’re out to get everything you’re worth nowadays.
“Addresses may be leveraged by attackers to create more convincing and effective phishing schemes that can ultimately lead to identity theft, credit card fraud and other misuses that usually deal a costly blow to the end user compromised,” said Bernstein.
Additionally, home addresses are often used by financial institutions to verify your identity. And as Cohen cautioned, reverse lookup services can supply anyone with your home address with a phone number and vice versa.
3. Your New Credit Card
Even though it should be a no-brainer, some people become overly excited about receiving a new credit card and end up sharing a picture of it on their social media accounts. Doing this is simply handing social media hackers exactly what they want. Sharing your credit card info gives hackers easy access to your financial accounts — since your account number and name are right on the card — and this could easily turn your life upside down.
“Your new credit card is a high value target for attackers whose agendas may be as simple as buying goods and services or as sophisticated as selling your card along with others in bulk in online markets, carding forums and card malls,” said Bernstein. To avoid being hacked, silently celebrate your new shiny plastic. There’s no need to share it with the world.
4. Hacker-Targeted Hashtags
Hashtags make it easy to follow a conversation on social media sites like Twitter. But be careful what you hashtag: Social media hackers are watching your every move.
Sharing too much information about yourself or your whereabouts can be quite simple with hashtags, particularly with society now having the tendency to #hashtag their whole lives. But hashtags can be useful tools for hackers as they provide another avenue for attackers to obtain information about you, said Bernstein.
You also have to pay attention to user hashtags. According to Bernstein, a hacker might create a fake user profile to generate interest and followers through the use of social media postings that project popular hashtags. “Once the user follows or connects with the attacker they are now within arms-length of a dubious URL, watering hole, attachment and many other types of malicious payloads,” he said. In other words, don’t over share and be cautious of who you engage with on social media.
5. Where You’ve Checked In
Although it’s fun and easy, checking in to your favorite places on Foursquare, Facebook or Twitter isn’t very smart. In fact, it would be wise not to check in, as social media hackers will know where you are — or where you aren’t.
“This notifies hackers that you will be using your credit card in different locations, making it easier to post transactions that would otherwise be unusual,” said Morgan O’Mara, content coordinator at Record Nations, a document management and security company. “It also leaves you more vulnerable for when you do online banking and are using unsecure[d] internet connections, alerting hackers to look for this.” This information can give social media hackers information to where you will likely be again, as well.
How to Avoid Social Media Hackers
“Over 80 percent of all of successful data thefts that occurred last year began with a social engineering exploit of some kind,” said Bernstein. To avoid social media hackers, there are simple steps you can take. Start by hardening your public presence on social media and by stripping any private information from your accounts. This should include your birthday, social security number, banking information and some other listed items, according to Bernstein.
“Hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated and are now seeking to develop trusted relationships with their prey which allows them to collect more and more information about their target prior to actually compromising them,” he said.