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Cybersecurity Implications of Using Social Media

Let’s face it: We live in the social media age. We crave attention. All the world’s a stage! Most of us are actively promoting ourselves with social media, and to be honest, it works. <insert shameless plug for my sites here, https://www.facebook.com/BryceAustinSpeaker/, https://www.linkedin.com/in/bryceaustin/, and @brycea >. When we are traveling or when we are at home, social media is our means of keeping in touch with the world.

There is a downside to all this newfangled technology: while we can now broadcast to the whole world what we are doing and where we are doing it, we can now broadcast TO THE WHOLE WORLD what we are doing and where are doing it. A public post is just that – public. There are nasty people in this world who may want to use this information against us, and it is up to us to ensure that we keep ourselves and our families safe and secure while we are out lighting up audiences around the world. Let’s talk about some important tips to do just that. There are a number of articles already written on social media safety, and a Google search will reveal a number of them. I want to discuss a few ideas that rarely make it into those articles.

Tip #1: Understand geotagging

I had an amazing experience two months ago flying back from a presentation in Athens, Greece. I awoke at 3:30AM to catch my flight, and between the early wake up call and the jetlag, I was feeling the lack of sleep and just going through the motions. A few hours after the plane took off, an awe inspiring mountain range appeared below us, and I was moved by the sight. I took a picture, and then realized that I may never see these mountains again, as I had no idea where we were. Somewhere between Athens and Paris was this masterpiece of nature’s beauty, and I was happy I had a picture to share with others. Later, when I showed the picture to my wife, I realized that an amazing thing had happened: my iPhone can search for GPS signals even when in airplane mode, and it was able to get a lock on our location when I took that picture. I was over a municipality in Northern Italy called Balmuccia, and it is beautiful beyond description.

I had no idea that geotagging was turned on for my iPhone. If I had posted that picture publicly on Instagram from the plane’s wifi, anyone on Instagram would know that I was halfway around the world. To be honest, this isn’t a horrific issue. Someone has to know where I live and be close enough to my home to make burglarizing my home feasible. Here is the heart of the problem: If you take a picture of yourself at home and put it on Instagram with geotagging information, you have given away your home address. Now anytime you post information about yourself checking in at your next fantastic speaking gig, a criminal will know where you live and that you are not at home. It’s important not to give away your home address unnecessarily by uploading geotagged pictures from your home.

Tip #2: Get a home security system

As speakers, it is completely unrealistic that you will not broadcast when you are away from home. If we are successful in our industry, we will constantly be advertising how often we are away from home! This is a risk that we need to mitigate, and the best way to do so is to invest in a home security system. I’m often asked which one or ones to purchase, and it’s a difficult question to answer. My advice is this: if you want a security system that is linked to your smartphone (so you can be alerted if the alarm goes off while you are away), then you need an Internet-connected security system. This type of system is called an “IoT” (Internet of Things) system, and any IoT system needs to come from a large player in this space. Smaller companies are less likely to have reasonable Internet security built into the product itself, and it is possible to have your home security systems be one of the ways that a hacker can tell if you are home or not. Regarding video, security camera systems have been the focus of many recent Internet hacking activities. It is important that a system you purchase is not on the list of systems known to be compromised. Here is a list of 70 of them that have been hacked (look under the Vendors area, about halfway down the webpage): http://www.kerneronsec.com/2016/02/remote-code-execution-in-cctv-dvrs-of.html

Tip #3: Multifactor authentication is your friend

Most social media professionals are not technology gurus, and most technology gurus are not social media professionals. To be honest, both groups have a lot to teach each other. If I was to pass one critical tip from the tech guru world into the social media professional world, it would be this: If you turn on multi-factor authentication (MFA), it will be much, much harder for someone to take over your social media accounts.

There are three ways to identify someone as the person he/she claims to be: something they know (like a password), something they have (like a car key or an iPhone), or something they are (like a fingerprint). Stealing one of these things (or correctly guessing one of them, especially a password) is relatively easy. Stealing two of these is much, much harder. So hard that you will put yourself in the top 5% of the most secure social media users in the world if you enable multi-factor authentication. How does MFA work? Simple: 1) enter your username and password. 2) Let the MFA system use your specific computer, your specific smartphone, or your specific telephone number to identify you. It takes a few minutes to setup and a few extra seconds to use every time you login, but as soon as it is setup, most of these systems will link your account to your specific laptop so that you don’t have to go through the MFA process over and over again.

There are many other  topics to cover on the use of securely using social media when traveling and when at home – stay tuned for future articles!

Author

Bryce Austin is a leading voice on emerging technology and cybersecurity issues. With over 10 years of experience as a Chief Information Officer and Chief Information Security Officer, Bryce actively advises the boards of companies in industries as diverse as financial services, retail, healthcare, technology and manufacturing industries.

Bryce holds a CISM certification and is known as a thought leader, cybersecurity expert and internationally-recognized professional speaker. He started his technology career on a Commodore 64 computer and a cassette tape drive.

When Bryce isn’t spending quality time with his wife and two young sons, he spends his weekends as a high-speed track driver and coach at venues across the USA. He has over 15 years of experience, and has driven cars as diverse as an 85 horsepower Saturn to a 650 horsepower Porsche 911 Turbo. He has had over 100 students, none of whom have died while under his instruction.