Both the Internet and social media have had a profound impact on many people’s lives.
Each day, millions of people log onto the Internet to make purchases, pay bills, or obtain information. Many also sign up on social media services to post pictures, share stories, or keep in touch with each other.
While the electronic age has provided a powerful means of exchanging information, the results can be a doubled-edged sword. Information on the Internet can also be used by criminals against vulnerable individuals.
People using social media and other Internet services are advised to take steps to protect themselves from being victimized.
During the recent Senior Expo sponsored by Rep. Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, a representative from the Pa. Attorney General’s Office, Janene Holter, gave a presentation of precautions people should take when using social media.
Following her talk, Katrina Boyer, a representative from the Pa. Department of Banking and Securities, spoke about cyber security.
Holter advised people using social media services as Facebook and Snapchat should carefully set up guidelines and barriers on their sites.
“Because it’s amazing that people want to know what other people are doing on a regular basis,” she explained. “And people love social media. Sometimes it’s just because they love to snoop, and like to know what other people are doing. But people are checking into hotels, or they’re checking into restaurants. And right away they know that ‘so and so’ is at the Red Lobster, waiting to get a table.”
Or, people will announce on Facebook that they are on vacation, far from home, she said. This informs potential thieves that a house is available to be burglarized.
“People don’t think that far ahead,” Holter explained. “They don’t think that nobody’s at my house and I’m going to announce that fact on Facebook.”
Even friends who post pictures of you on their Facebook pages can also leave you vulnerable, she said. The best thing to do is be more private about your affairs, and insist that your picture not be taken, particularly if there’s a good chance it will be posted over the Internet.
One participant noted that she sometimes gets pop up ads while using social media, asking her to participate in a survey. The ads always say that she’s won a $50 gift card, and all she has to do is answer the questions.
Holter advised people not to participate in such surveys.
“All they’re doing is collecting information about who is signing up and who is online,” she said.
Like Holter, Boyer advised the group to take precautions when using the Internet. One of her strongest recommendations was people allow their hardware systems to be updated regularly.
Many people are reluctant to update their software, because they believe it is working fine.
“But it is important that we update every time because we want our information to be as up-to-date as we can,” she said. “Because there’s so many different ways that criminals can get into our computers.”
Another good safety precaution is to use multiple passwords to provide multiple protection. Using only one password means all your accounts will be vulnerable if that password becomes known to the wrong person.
People should also avoid using public WiFi, Boyer said. Another person on the same WiFi system can tap into what you are doing and obtain sensitive information.
One person noted that she has a WiFi system in her house, and wondered if anyone could tap into that as well. Boyer assured her it would not be possible, as long as they do not have the password to the WiFi system.