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Social Media


Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are amazing resources, allowing you to meet, interact, and share with people around the world. However, all this power also brings risk for you, your family, friends, and your employer. Below are some dangers and how to use these sites securely and safely.

A common concern with social media is protecting your personal information. The following are several potential negative consequences of using this technology and some suggested tips to avoid these consequences.

Background checks that can adversely impact applications to academic institutions, future employment, or job promotions

Some organizations search social media sites as part of background checks. Embarrassing or incriminating photos or posts, no matter how old, could prevent you from getting hired or promoted. In addition, many universities conduct similar checks for new student applications. Privacy options may not protect you because when these organizations ask you to “like” or join their pages or certain posts, this information may be archived on multiple sites.

Attacks against you

Cyber attackers can analyze your posts and use them to gain access to your or your organization’s information. For example, they can use information you share to guess the answers to the secret questions that reset your online passwords, create targeted email attacks against you (called spearfishing), or call someone in your organization pretending to be you. In addition, these attacks can spill into the physical world such as identifying where you work or live.

Accidental harm to your employer

Criminals or competitors can use any sensitive information you post about your organization against your employer. In addition, your posts can potentially cause reputational harm to your organization.

Key takeaways

The best protection is to limit what you post. Yes, privacy options can provide some protection. However, they are often confusing and change frequently without your knowledge. What you thought was private can quickly become public for various reasons. In addition, the privacy of your posts is only as secure as the people you share them with. The more friends or contacts you share with, the more likely that information will become public. You should assume anything you post can or will become a public and permanent part of the Internet.

Finally, be aware of what friends are posting about you. If they post something you are not comfortable with, ask them to take it down. If they refuse or ignore you, contact the social media site and ask the site to remove the content for you. At the same time, be respectful of what you post about others.

Social media sites are fun and powerful, but be careful what you share and with whom.

About the Author

Neil Burns is the Security Manager/FSO for MHI Ship Repair and Services in Norfolk, Virginia. Neil has over 11 years of industrial security experience and is a former police officer with over 20 years of law enforcement involvement. He is active in VSRA and serves on the Security Committee as Co-chairman. He can be reached at (757) 545-6400 or neil.burns@mhi-shiprepair.com.

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