It’s Time to Get Smart about Your Social Media Exposure

By Bob Courtemanche

It’s Time to Get Smart about Your Social Media Exposure

Posting fabulous vacation moments on Facebook – from a boat in Belize, to the top of a mountain at Chamonix – might be a fun way to share experiences with your friends, but it’s also, unfortunately, a great way to let bad actors know exactly when your home is empty and ripe for a break-in. Similarly, broadcasting details of a college semester abroad on Instagram increases the risk of a kidnapping for ransom.

Data breaches. Identity theft. Cyber blackmail. Kidnapping. Libel. Reputational damage. Social media usage exposes you and your family to risk in a million ways.

While insurance products like umbrella policies are critical in protecting your family’s net-worth, the best thing you can do to mitigate these type of cyber risks is to prevent social media missteps in the first place.

So, how secure is your digital footprint? Here are some commonsense ways to beef up your digital security and to get smart about social media usage.

Privacy Settings

Educating yourself and your kids on how to keep personal information secure is critical. Let your children know that everything they post online is public and permanent. Parents should always have access to and monitor their children’s social media accounts. Never give out personal information like home address, Social Security numbers, accounts numbers and dates of birth. Hackers often troll sites like Facebook for personal details to set up fraudulent accounts.

University of Texas at Austin Center for Identity has some good tips on how to set up social media accounts with privacy settings.

Password Management

Massive data breaches make the headlines almost every week. When a data breach occurs, passwords are stolen. If your go-to password is something like “Password123” for all your online activity, (because, well, who can remember those long, complicated passwords?), then you risk hackers from one breach accessing all your accounts. In a recent survey, password management leader LastPass found that even though 91% of people know that using the same password for multiple accounts is a security risk, 59% of people use the same password. Protecting your digital assets by shoring up your password security is essential. Here are some basic tips on password security:

  • Change passwords regularly
  • Creating long passwords with a mix of numbers, symbols, uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Don’t use personal identifiers like names, birthdates or street name
  • Use a unique password for every site

Traveling Abroad? Don’t Tell the World

Traveling is part and parcel of our private client lifestyle. We advise clients not to post where they’ll be or when. When you go on vacation, resist the urge to overshare because broadcasting your whereabouts exposes you to theft.

Similarly, if you have a child doing a semester abroad in, say, Turkey, talk beforehand about freezing social media usage. Although your college kid might want to share every tantalizing bite of kofte or baklava, details of foreign travel make you more vulnerable to kidnapping and ransom exposure. This is particularly true for high net-worth families. While safeguards like kidnap and ransom products that pay negotiation and ransom fees are advisable, curbing social media during travel is a simple way to mitigate risk.

Do No Harm

Social media also exposes you to liability when it comes to commenting on other people’s accounts. There are countless examples of people who have been sued because of libelous comments they made on social media. Engaging in gossip or causing harm to someone’s reputation through social media has potential financial consequences, as well as the emotional harm you can do to others.

Educating your children on the perils of posting damaging comments, sexting and online bullying is essential. We advise our clients to begin coaching their children in social media dangers and proper usage as young as possible. Online bullying can begin long before middle school. Sexting is an equally pervasive issue. Make sure your child or young adult understands the emotional and reputational harms of sexting, as well as the legal consequences (sending pornographic images of minors whether you were involved in taking the photos or not is a criminal offense) and financial implications of potential lawsuits.

Everyone knows the joys and pitfalls of social media. When your family’s security is a stake, it’s important to be smart about social media usage and protecting your digital data.

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