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The Small Business Social Media Security Guide

Social media can be a boon for businesses, but it also comes with risks. Protect your company with some simple security measures.

On the Web, there’s no place to hide.

That's how it seems, with weekly reports of hacked social-media accounts that uncover all the secrets (and more than a few photos) of celebrities and politicians.

It’s not just well-known people who are getting hacked, either. An MTV/Associated Press poll finds that about 30 percent of teens and young adults have had their Twitter, Facebook, email or other accounts exposed.

That age group tends to use fewer protection measures, putting them more at risk. But every individual and business should follow good security practices to keep their information safe.

Anatomy of a Hack

Sometimes, someone you know does the hacking, such as a disgruntled former employee or romantic partner. A University of Michigan quarterback recently took down his Twitter feed after an ex-girlfriend began tweeting about how he cheated during their relationship.

Like other security threats, social-media hacks are done to gain access to personal information. However, they aren’t always done to settle old scores. For businesses that are exposed, the breach can lead to revenue for the hacker.

For example, worming their way into a company’s Facebook account by guessing an easy password can give hackers access to any linked social-media accounts, additional passwords and company information.

Protect Yourself

Increasingly, businesses are relying on social media as part of their marketing and sales strategies, so staying protected on these sites is crucial. Here are some tips on locking down and keeping the bad guys out:

  • Use strong password protection. Create a complex password featuring a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Only share the password with trusted individuals, and change the password on a regular basis.
  • Look before you leap. Before posting on Facebook or tweeting on Twitter, take a moment to think about what someone else could do with that information. Most of the time, the content will be safe. But try to get into the mind of a hacker for a second, and consider what could be mined from what you post. Information like your current location and the identities and faces of your family members are all items that can be gleaned from unsecured or ill-moderated social-media profiles.
  • Choose apps carefully. Be very careful about installing third-party applications, sometimes referred to as “Facebook apps.” These applications will often prompt you with messages that ask for access to your account. Before accepting these terms, always research the background of the application. A simple keyword search on Google is often all you’ll need to learn more about the application in question (examples of “safe” apps are Instagram and Twitter).
  • Set appropriate privacy and security defaults. Often, the default settings for applications aren’t enough to protect you. Take the time to look through privacy settings and make sure they’re set at a high level.
  • Consider everything you post as public. Even with strong security and privacy settings, information and photos can still be accessed. Talk to employees about keeping their postings appropriate.

When it comes to social-media protection, prevention is key. Use the Web as a source of connection and brand-building, but make sure that you and your company’s good name are safe.

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