Most people spend multiple hours each week, or often each day, online. Much of this time is spent on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Instagram, and the like. While there are many positives to utilizing these networking sites, such as developing relationships and staying in touch with family and friends, keeping up to date on news, building a brand, and being entertained, there are downsides to consider as well.

In particular, because social media sites are so incredibly popular, hackers use them as the grounds for many of their attacks. This means you can’t merely leave security up to the sites you use. Be proactive to protect yourself from cybercriminals who are trying to get you to click on fraudulent, malware-infected links, or who want to use the information you post as a way to break into your networks and systems. There are simple yet effective steps you can take today to stay safe.

Use Security Software

Firstly, if you don’t already have security software for your computer, buy some. In particular, purchase maximum internet security software that will work to keep hackers out of your systems. Security software should protect you from a variety of threats, including viruses (which are often picked up on social media sites), spam, spyware, ransomware, and other types of malware.

Also, look for products that block harmful websites, protect your privacy online, prevent data-stealing applications, and keep phishing emails from being a risk.

Choose Strong Passwords

It’s also necessary to choose strong passwords. When it comes to your social media logins, this is vital since hackers use these sites so much to prey on people. Create different codes for different social media profiles so that if one login does happen to get compromised, not all of them will be.

Also, put quality passwords in place on your computer and other devices, and on the Wi-Fi router you use to get online. Effective passwords are eight or more characters long and made up of a mixture of symbols, upper- and lower-case letters, and numbers.

Verify People

Next, you probably get many friend or similar connection requests every month on social media. Many of these will come from people you don’t know. While some will be safe enough, in that they’re people who work in similar fields or who have genuine connections to you, others will not be so valid.

Be wary of spammers trying to connect with you for nefarious reasons. Before you accept a connection with someone, investigate their profile. Read their bio and some of their posts, and see who they’re currently ‘friends’ with. Check out their online presence elsewhere, too, to determine if it is a real person who has contacted you. Taking this step is a must if your posts are hidden to people not connected as your ‘friends’ online. Hackers often send requests to people whose information is private to learn more about them and find ways to breach their networks.

Think Before You Post

Be wary about which details you post about yourself, your family, your pets, your work, and other facets of your life online. Hackers are always on the lookout for juicy bits of information they can use to determine passwords, email addresses, and other sensitive details.

Before you hit enter, read over your post again. Have you revealed any personal data that could be used by hackers? Consider things like the name of your children and pets, your favorite color, lucky numbers, email address, business address, or favorite mantra, song title, or book – anything related to the passwords you use or other login details.

Update Software Often

While the software you use is there to help you, if you don’t keep it updated, it can give a cybercriminal a way into your computer, network, or accounts. As such, it’s vital to update software of all types often, as soon as new versions are released. Developers are continually looking to see if security gaps have opened up in their products. When they notice these risks, they plug the hole and release an update. If you don’t install this though, you’ll be leaving yourself vulnerable.

Update security software, firewalls, browsers, operating systems, plugins, games, apps, and other related software. Take advantage of the automatic update features most products include, too. By doing this, you won’t have to remember to search for new versions.

The threat of being hacked on or because of your social media accounts is a real and scary one. However, by taking steps to protect yourself and acting with care online, you’ll reduce the risks significantly. Then, you can get back to enjoying the many benefits of social media and know you’ve done everything you can to stay safe.