Staying safe online
From our date of birth to our holiday plans, favourite bar, work details, home address and live updates from the stylists chair, we’ll share almost anything with our friends, followers and Tinder dates. We post a lot of personal information online, sometimes without even knowing it, so it pays to protect your privacy, personal information and accounts as much as possible, so you stay as safe as possible.
Model: Madeline Relph
Our 5 tips are a starters guide to staying virtually, physically and mentally safe online.
- Know your data footprint and what information others can easily find about you.
Be aware of what you’re posting, do an audit of your profiles, change any risky habits, review the privacy settings on your accounts, consider creating separate accounts for professional use..
In 2012 an experiment was conducted in Belgium, inviting people to test the skills of a mind reader. This video, although a few years old, remains a relevant and valuable lesson in understanding the type and amount of personal information we inadvertently share and store online, and how easily it can be accessed by others.
Although we have become more aware of online privacy since 2012, we are also sharing more than ever and companies are collecting more information than ever. The accessibility of information can be a little scary but staying safe online is really about staying aware of the information you’re sharing, and of who can easily access it.
Take a moment to watch the video, then consider what could be easily discovered about you. If you’re concerned start by doing an audit of your profiles, change any risky habits, review and adjust the privacy settings on your accounts or even create separate accounts for professional and personal use.
Use a different password on every account, app and site; Invest in a secure password manager
Passwords are the bane of the modern world, there are too many to remember and too many rules on different sites and apps. It’s tempting to use the one password for everything.
Even a complex password can be decrypted, and no system is perfect. Using the one password means if one app, site or system is hacked, all your data becomes vulnerable.
The best practice is to have a core password and use different variations on each app or site. Make your password alphanumeric, case sensitive and include a character to meet varying rules applied. Here’s an example of a password you might use:
Alternatively, or additionally, invest in a secure password manager that stores all your passwords, works on all devices and connects to all your apps and sites. Then you only ever need to remember the one master password.
Model: Chiara Gizzi
- Checkins, posts and online behaviour
Be aware of the behaviour trail and patterns you’re leaving, and make them hard to predict.
We all love sharing our lives, checking in to our favourite bar, sharing the movie we’re seeing, the shoes we just bought, the job we’re on or the plane we’re in – for some of us it’s also part of our job and profile building.
However each time you do, you’re announcing to the world that you’re not at home, and creating a pattern for people to follow. That means leaving yourself open to break ins at home, mail and shopping theft from mailboxes or in extreme’s, someone following you (in real life, not just hitting the “like” button).
Simple changes like not checking in to the Winery every Sunday, gym every visit or announcing every order from The Iconic makes your behaviour less predictable. Sharing just a little less, or just more smartly, reduces the risks of unwanted consequences.
By all means share, that’s what social media is for, but be aware of the trail you’re leaving, and make it hard to predict. Don’t be like Chantelle, who lost her Melbourne Cup winnings by posting her ticket, with a scannable barcode, on Facebook after the race. (and maybe get a P.O Box for all the shopping).
- Fake accounts and spammers
If it doesn’t seem genuine and real, chances are it isn’t.
We all want to trust and think the best of people, including the people who follow, friend, tumbl, link or snap with us. Unfortunately not every profile is real, not everyone is who they say they are and some accounts exist only to skim and steal your information.
Fortunately the majority of fake accounts are relatively easy to spot on any social media channel. The key warning signs are
- Very few or no photos, particularly profile photos
- All photos look similar or like stock photography
- Few friends, particularly mutual friends or ones in your area / country
- Erratic or generic posts on the page. No articles or opinions shared
- Little to no conversation on the wall or main page
- Details and information that doesn’t make sense.
- Particular to LinkedIn, generic job titles and descriptions
The key to identifying a fake account is to consider how you and your friend’s profiles look and feel. If it doesn’t seem as genuine and real, chances are it isn’t. If you do encounter a fake account, or one attempts to interact with you, block and report it. Their purpose is to steal your information, and chances are you’re not their only target.
And when it comes to meeting strangers, because we all have our Tinderella moments, swiping right doesn’t mean swiping right your instinct and better judgement left.
- Managing Trolls and Negativity
Do not feed the trolls, ever. It’s always tempting but you will never win.
Trolls, people who attack and bully others online anonymously, and negative comments are as much a part of social media as the support and positivity displayed by other friends and strangers. The best way to deal with trolls, is not to feed them. The more you continue the conversation, the more they will attempt to drag you down. The way to win, and save your mental health, is to walk away.
We live in a rich and diverse world filled with millions of people who have different opinions, views and experiences to our own. Engaging in a debate, discussing opinions and arguing perspectives can be healthy, and is a great way to broaden your own and others views and knowledge.
However when someone is criticising, bullying, being rude, unreasonable, negative, threatening or engaging with an intent to harm… just like you would in a bar, at a dinner party or any real world situation – get up and walk away, block them if you have too, report them if you feel the need.
Do not feed the trolls, you will never win.
To shake off the troll’s effects and bring back a smile talk to a friend, check out this compilation of hilarious animal fails or laugh along with, and virtually high five, the only man who’s ever successfully trolled the trolls.
For more tips on staying safe online visit the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
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