Cybercriminals net a whopping $3 billion a year from social media alone. Unfortunately, many of their victims actively helped them earn the money by inadvertently providing hackers with the valuable information the criminals needed to do their dirty work.
Many cybercriminals troll social media accounts to gather personal information because they know they can use this personal information to gain access to personal and even work computers. How well does this work? The stats make it clear that hackers are on the right track.
- About 59% of individuals use personal information such as a family member's name, pet's name, hobby-related word, part of one's address, one's birthday, or the name of a favorite book or movie to generate passwords.
- Nearly 60% of individuals use the same password for all their accounts, only changing passwords when they are compelled to do so.
To make matters worse, the FBI recently warned that many people are inadvertently revealing the answers to common password retrieval questions by taking part in popular social media challenges. These challenges include, but aren't limited to:
- Posting a graduation photo of yourself to show solidarity with the graduating class of 2020. Such photos tend to include not only one's graduation year but also information on which high school a person attended and, in some instances, even the name of the high school mascot.
- Posting the name and a photo of one's current best friend or a best friend from a particular stage of life (i.e. best childhood friend, best friend from high school/university, etc.)
- Posting information about a first pet
- Posting the name and photo of one's favorite concert, restaurant, or a teacher from a specific grade
- Posting information about the make and model of one's first car
With the right information, hackers don't even need your account password. They just need to hack into your email account, say they lost the password, and then correctly answer the security questions to reset access to your account.
How to Protect Yourself from Hacks
Needless to say, one of the best ways to stop hackers from gaining access to your accounts is to not give them the information they need to do so. If you've already taken part in social media challenges that share personal information, delete the photos and information. Warn friends and family members about the dangers of putting up too much information on social media so they don't inadvertently reveal information about you that could lead to a breach.
The FBI also highly recommends using two-factor authentication. Once this is set up, hackers can't gain access to your accounts even if they figure out the password because a string of six letters/numbers is sent to your phone after you put in the password and you have to put in the code to gain access. Using two-factor authentication will make it harder for you to get into your accounts but the added layer of security is more than worth the extra effort.
Use strong passwords on all your accounts. Such passwords should include upper- and lower-case letters, symbols, and numbers. Use a different password for each account and change passwords regularly. If you worry you'll forget important passwords, consider investing in a password manager.
Hackers are continually on the lookout for easy prey. Avoid becoming their next victim by avoiding social media challenges that involve sharing excessive personal information and taking measures to keep your accounts secure at all times. Doing so will drastically decrease the odds of having to deal with a devastating attack or the sale of your personal information on the dark web.