In March 2018, the world learned that Cambridge Analytica, a company specializing in collecting and analyzing data on the internet for election campaigns, had access to the personal information of more than 50 million people. The scandal scared social network users across the planet because Cambridge Analytica obtained the information without the consent of the profile owners.
The infraction was revealed by a former employee, who denounced the company to journalists in the United States and Europe. This was one of the most severe cases of violation of social network users’ privacy. The company used the data to target election ads to specific groups of people; Among its clients are Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency of the United States and the campaign for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. This referendum became known as Brexit.
One of the most surprising things about the case was how Cambridge Analytica obtained the data. It wasn’t any type of virus, hacker, or malware that delivered the material to the company: it was the users themselves. Yes, through a ‘personality test’ on Facebook itself, created by researcher Aleksandr Kogan. The app’s purpose was to create a personality profile of whoever answered your questions. But Kogan captured data not only from test takers but also from their friends and contacts.
This was all handed over to the company, which used the information to create ads for its customers. Users didn’t know this, but Facebook allows developers and customers to access millions of its user’s private data, not just for advertising purposes.
The social network captures various data about each of its users. Age, place of residence, citizenship, friends, relatives and contacts, jobs, love life, routine, restaurants, movies, books, location (via check-ins and phone GPS), political preferences, and many others. Because of this, the company can offer advertising services with exact targets.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal has the world on high alert and has shown how much information we are handing over to tech companies without realizing it. Facebook had to explain itself to US and European authorities, and users began understanding what Facebook knew about their lives. One of the ways to know this is by downloading a ZIP file that contains all the data that the social network captures about you. Many were startled to realize how much a single company knows about each person’s life and how much information it has about citizens.
All this information can fall into the hands of hackers and other malicious people. It is, therefore, necessary to be very careful with what you reveal on social networks and your profile’s level of exposure, especially regarding strangers. But how to avoid problems in social networks. See below for some essential tips.
Avoid conversations with strangers.
While networks are great for making new connections, you must be careful what you say in these tools.
Any type of data can be recorded and then used against you, either to steal something from you directly or to a social engineer and use you to get to a specific target (like your bank account or your company’s system). Avoid giving personal or professional details to anyone you don’t know.
Beware of the browsing environment.
In some places, you need to be very careful with confidential or sensitive information. Do not upload files or data in public chat rooms or forums.
Locations that lack security can be invaded and manipulated by hackers to steal valuable information. Pay attention before sending anything, and make sure it’s safe.
Protect your Privacy
The ideal way to protect your privacy is to not leave any information or post in “public” mode. If an evildoer is watching your profile, they can use this data against you. Of course, sometimes, you might want to make a post public.
But make sure it’s impossible to identify any essential information about you, such as where you live, places you go, where you work, or anything that could compromise your safety.
Be wary of friend requests from people you don’t know.
Often strangers ask their friends on social media. Be very careful when adding someone you don’t know. Hackers can create fake profiles to trick someone into spreading malware, viruses, or getting information. Research shows that a third of company employees accept friend invitations from people they don’t know.
This represents a considerable risk. When a hacker enters your social contacts, he has the possibility to reach your entire network, including your family, friends, and co-workers. Your social network can be a threat not only to your social life but also to your professional life and the company’s data.
Empower employees to understand threats
In companies, it is possible to create tools to monitor the network and prevent it from being invaded. But personal and handheld devices can be gateways for attacks and are widely used to access social networks.
Employees need to understand the threat they are subject to, so it is necessary to train them to understand the security risks they face even when using their smartphones at home, outside of work hours. Empowering employees is one of the most efficient ways to avoid security breaches.
Take good care of company profiles.
Another threat to companies on social media is their own social media pages. If there is an intrusion or the password ends up in the hands of an evildoer, it can be used to scam, post offensive content, and tarnish the company’s reputation.
Pay attention to who has access to the profiles; only people who actually use the pages should have permission to publish and edit the data. Search to see if there are no fake profiles of your company deceiving users and using your name to scam and deceive customers.
Be very careful with security procedures so that you are not the victim of a break-in or kidnapping; always use all available tools to prevent passwords from being stolen or changed. Ask everyone with access to social media to use two-step verification and keep protection programs on their devices.