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Tips To Avoid Being Hacked On Social Media In 2016

tips to stay safe from digital criminals


Protect Your Identity And Avoid Being Hacked

When Leslie Hughes of Punch Media called and asked if we could put together some notes on staying safe online for one of her upcoming talks, we were happy to oblige. Leslie is a LinkedIn Trainer, Profile Writer & Optimization Specialist Professor of Social Media. CBC called her a “Social Media Guru”.  She’s also a joy to talk to and full of energy and enthusiasm. Of course we said yes!

So let’s jump in. Here are some brief points regarding privacy online, and tips to limit your risk of being hacked.  These may sound alarmist, but part of the reason digital criminals are so successful is because so many of us don’t understand the risks of the technology we use daily and take for granted as being perfectly safe.

Social Media

Everything on social media is indexed.  Perhaps not at a granular level, but certainly for data mining purposes.

Assume anything you share online will not be kept private.

Private chats are not private.

Private groups are not private.

Everything is indexed.

For both email and social media, here is our rule of thumb: “Don’t share anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing in a crowded, public room where you will be overheard.”

Browsing Online

Firefox is a more secure internet browser than Internet Explorer and Google Chrome.  We recommend you use it.

Install Ublock ad blocker to reduce risk of viruses, malware and spyware that can be installed via online ads.

Ads that tell you that your computer is infected and prompt you to “click here” to have the system cleaned, are in fact installing malware or viruses on your computer.  Only use your trusted and paid for antivirus program to clean your computer.

Be extremely wary of public hotspots/WiFi. Never perform sensitive tasks such as online banking via public WiFi. We also recommend you avoid typing any passwords into any accounts or transmit any email or information while on public WiFi. Use public WiFi only to browse for entertainment or location services.


Never use the same password for two accounts. If your account is compromised by a digital criminal who hacked your password, one of the first things they would do is try to discover your social media or other accounts and try the same password.  If your email, Facebook and banking password are the same or similar, this can greatly increase your chances of being defrauded.

There are many steps you should take to create strong, unique passwords.  For a free download our Password Policy Guide For Small Business (also great for individuals).


Email is not secure or encrypted.

Think of email as a letter you send through Canada Post without an envelope. Anyone can read it while it is being sent, and you’ll never know that it was read. – Adam Thorn, IT Consultant

Once you hit send, your email is transmitted as a plain text file.  It is easily viewable by internet service providers, email providers, government agencies or malicious cyber criminals.

Think of email as a letter you send through Canada Post without an envelope. Anyone can read it while it is being sent, and you’ll never know that it was read.

For this reason, we urge you to exercise caution, and especially, never send credit card information via email.

Again, use our rule of thumb: “Don’t share anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing in a crowded, public room where you will be overheard.”

As a consumer, if a service provider asks you to forward paperwork with your personal information via email, politely decline and either deliver the paperwork in person, by phone or via Canada Post.

As a business owner,  if you need to collect personal information from people, please do so in person, via phone, or using online forms with Secure Socket Layer technology, which requires you to purchase a security certificate which encrypts the data collected via your forms to help you to protect the privacy of the clients you serve.  Please familiarize yourself with PIPEDA laws and PCI compliance for the safe handling of personal and financial information both online and offline.

As a business owner, you can also look into Virtual Private Network (VPN) tunnels as a secure method of sharing information within an organization.  Many regulated industries will want to use VPN’s – for example, many investment firms utilize them for the privacy and security they afford, and we’ve set them up for dentists and doctors as well.  For the small business, you can look at Log Me In Hamachi which costs just $25 per year.  There are more robust platforms to explore as well.

SmartPhone AntiVirus

Most people don’t realize that SmartPhones are prone to viruses and hacking, just like computers.  To better protect yourself or the data you share, be sure to encrypt your phone and install antivirus on it.

Encryption settings can be found in your phone’s settings.

For Antivirus, we recommend the following options:

1) Lookout Mobile Security
2) Norton Mobile Security
3) McAfee Mobile Security Android:
1) BitDefender Mobile Security
2) Kaspersky Internet Security for Android
3) McAfee Mobile Security for Android

Computer Security

Just like your SmartPhone, you want to ensure your computer is also encrypted and has up to date antivirus installed.  On a Mac, you’ll want to encrypt your home directory.  On a PC, you should encrypt your entire hard drive. One free method you can use is BitLocker. Most free antivirus is simply not good enough.  There are thousands of new threats emerging every single day.  We recommend an antivirus that is regularly scanning and updating virus definitions such as BitDefender or Eset NOD32.

Network Security

With a sharp rise in digital threats since 2013, security analysts suggest every business owner must also be an IT Security Professional, or hire one.  At the very least, your business should:
  • Have a strong password policy in place
  • Have secure WiFi and not allow employees to log on using personal devices which they may not adequately protect with up to date antivirus at home
  • Have up to date antivirus on every server and device
  • Have a commercial grade firewall installed which performs data inspection and application whitelisting
  • Have offsite backup of your data to protect you in the event of a cryptolocker infection
Catching on online virus or being defrauded by a digital criminal is a lot like being hit by a truck. No one sees it coming.  And you don’t think it will happen to you, until it does.  Our brains operate in safe mode, and to allow us to think and function in day to day life, our brains have to filter out all but immediate pressing threats.  As a result, we succumb to thoughts of being perfectly safe, even when we’re not quite so.  We hope you will use some of these tips to stay safer online.

Toronto IT Support: TUCU is an IT Support Company located in Toronto ON, offering business IT Services.  Established in 2003, TUCU has earned a reputation for reliable service.  We help busy professionals and small teams with computer and IT issues. Schedule your free 20 minute phone consultation to discover how we can help you.

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