Due to the popularity of sites like Twitter and Facebook and their huge number of users, they have become some of the top targets for hackers and spammers. Once these hackers get you to click on their links they can pretty much extract anything they want from your computer ranging from your identity to all access and controls.
Aside from having great anti-virus and malware protection programs installed on your computer, here are some tips that you should follow to stay safe online:
- Don’t assume a link is “safe” just because a friend sent it to you: Your friend’s account could have been hacked or also infected by one of these hackers, and their wall posts on Facebook or their tweets could potentially be a link to a virus. If the post or tweet doesn’t sound like something your friend would say, make sure you find a second way to ask them about what the link is about.
- Don’t assume that all Twitter links are safe just because Twitter scans their links now: As of August, Twitter teamed up with Google to monitor their links for blacklisted websites that are malware infested. Unfortunately this doesn’t protect you from all infectious shortened links. Programs like Brizzly display the entire link before you click on it so you can verify the source of the link.
- Don’t assume Bit.ly links are 100% safe: Twitter’s default link shortening service, Bit.ly also monitors the links that are posted for malicious website by warning you when you are about to visit an infected site, but it is not fail proof. Out of all the url-shorting services, bit.ly is the safest, which is why hackers now prefer to use other ones instead.
- Make sure your browser is up to date: If you are using Internet Explorer, make sure that it is the latest version with all the updates since this is the most targeted web browser out there. Firefox is the second most attacked browser, but unlike IE, it updates automatically when a new update is released. Also Opera and Safari come with automatic updates, so you should be pretty safe with them as well. Google Chrome is also a very safe browser since aside from just having automatic updates, it has a “sandbox” feature that runs all of its plug-ins in a restricted environment, meaning if it was to get hacked, it would not get to your whole computer, and would only be in the browser.
- Keep Windows updated: Make sure that the automatic updates are turned on so that you are safe since hackers are always working on new ways to try to hack into your computer.
- Keep Adobe Reader and Flash updated: Adobe Reader and Flash are highly targeted by hackers due to some of their security vulnerabilities, so if you’re ever on a website that asks you update a Flash player or the Adobe reader, don’t do it since its guaranteed to be a virus of some sort. If you really do need to update, make sure that you do it through the real Adobe website.
- Just because you use a Mac, don’t assume that you are safe: While Macs are less targeted by hackers then Windows users, they are not completely safe. Also most Mac users don’t use anti-virus software, and are left wide open to attacks.
- Be careful of emails from social networks: Since emails can be “spoofed” by hackers, you can’t assume that it really is from the real social networking websites anymore. Make sure you don’t open their attachments that you weren’t expecting and be careful when clicking on their links – especially if you’re asked to “update your account” and then log in to your account, since this is pretty much just giving the hackers your account information and passwords. This also applies to other companies such as banks.
A lot of this information is common sense to anyone who has been online for a while, but with the new technology and social networks it is now much trickier to see if links are safe, especially if you think it was your friend that posted the link or that it is supposed to be scanned by Google. So make sure to follow these steps and be cautious when opening links and attachments from your friends or your email.