With the world’s increased use of the Internet, stalking doesn’t just mean the physical act anymore. Online stalking, or cyberstalking, is a growing problem. It is when a criminal uses technology to harass or threaten a person or an organization. They often blackmail victims to acquire personal information including their email, social media, and banking account information.
Today, you are 20 times more likely to be robbed while at your computer by a criminal based overseas than held up on a street. With our increasing digital dependence for everyday tasks, we need to learn how to protect ourselves from online criminals.
With January as National Stalking Awareness Month, this is a good time to pause and think about your online activities and our social media exposure. Below are some general guidelines to follow to secure your personal security online:
General Risk Management
- Use complex passwords and passphrases that incorporate capital/lower case alpha-numeric and special characters to help mitigate the threat of dictionary cracking programs.
- Avoid common passwords such as birth dates, and change passwords often.
- Do not use the same credentials on more than one account; never rotate or reuse old passwords. It is best to have a variety of complex and unique passwords for various online accounts.
- Disable the geotagging feature on your mobile devices, particularly if you are an avid social media user.
LinkedIn Risk Management
- LinkedIn was recently breached, so change your password.
- Enable two-factor verification. You will be asked to provide a cell phone number that will be used to send you verification codes each time you sign into LinkedIn from a new device.
- Control your visibility and consider limiting the contact information you share on your profile. Even though you might not have contact information in your public profile, there other potentially sensitive information that threat actors can misuse.
- Review your privacy control settings and make changes as needed. Consider limiting access to your feed and setting the ‘anonymous’ profile viewing mode. Please check this section every so often for new privacy options that may be added.
- Since LinkedIn offers the ability to contact users via InMail internal message service, having this functionality enabled could allow threat actors to contact you directly. This increases your risk of social engineering.
- Consider a LinkedIn Premium subscription, so you can monitor who views your profile.
- Be skeptical of invites you receive from unknown contacts. A common scheme by cyber criminals is the creation of fictional personas on LinkedIn that can be used for corporate espionage. Threat actors can approach executives, posing as customer prospects, job recruiters, or former colleagues. Once accepted into the executive’s LinkedIn network, the threat actor can send a spear phishing email or attempt to extract proprietary information and monitor the executive’s new connections and clients.
- Be aware of fake users. Take time to verify and look for warning signs. In addition to keyword stuffing and scraped photos, a user with a small number of connections should be viewed as suspicious. Be cautious of incomplete profiles and poor spelling. LinkedIn encourages users to report bogus accounts using the drop-down arrow next to that user’s profile.
Twitter Risk Management
- Do not share personal information or contact information on Twitter.
- Consider making your feed private. Once the “Protect My Tweets” feature is turned on, tweets will only be available to the followers approved by you. If you unprotect your tweets, anything previously protected will be public.
- Turn off the “Tweet Location” feature. This provides the current geolocation of the person posting a tweet.
- Review applications that use your Twitter account and avoid web-based applications that ask you to supply your Twitter username and password. Regularly review the list of applications you have authorized via the Twitter Settings Connections
- Approach links with caution and preview short URLs before clicking. Shortened URLs are often used to hide unsafe web addresses.
- Beware of unsolicited Direct Messages (DMs). Phishing attacks often use DMs to lure unsuspecting users to a login page where they are asked to provide their username and password. Use your judgment and discretion while clicking URLs in DMs.
- Block and report spam. If you receive spam via @replies, block and report the account as spam. Block suspicious accounts, spammers, and bots from following you.
- Ignore “too-good-to-be true-follower schemes.” While the number of followers may matter in a social media-driven environment, disingenuous numbers may lead to reputational issues and potential security risks.
Facebook Risk Management
- Turn on Facebook privacy settings. While Facebook provides a number of powerful options to protect you online, it is up to you to enable them. Many of these options are not the default settings but are easy to implement.
- Use Privacy Checkup to make sure you are only sharing information and posts with people you intend to. Be mindful about oversharing.
- Consider enabling Login Approvals, which serve as a two-factor authentication. Opt in to use Login Alerts – you will know once your account is being logged into from a new or different device.
- Consider limiting friend requests to only friends of friends, ensuring that anyone contacting you knows at least one person in common.
- “Who can look me up?” provides a number of methods for increasing your privacy, and you can limit your visibility depending on how you use your account.
- “Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile?” option allows users to stop search engines from linking to their profiles. Not allowing search engines to link your profile is a good way to add another layer of privacy.
- Review “Friend Requests.” Once you have accepted someone as your friend, they will be able to access any information about you and your family (including photographs) that you have marked as viewable by your friends. You can always establish different levels of friendship and limit what each subset can view in your profile.
- Perform routine contact cleanings. If one of your contacts becomes unstable or his/her own account is compromised, this data could be a gold mine for a malicious actor.
Cyberstalking is often the first step in a bigger, phishing or social engineering scheme. Make sure you are observant of email senders, attachments, and links within emails. If you are questioning if you should open an email attachment or click a link, don’t open or click. Following these risk management guidelines can help protect you from cyberstalking and its negative impacts (loss of credibility, identity theft, etc.). Protecting the online presence of your most valuable physical assets should be part of a larger physical security monitoring program that requires real-time data and alerts, and in the event that harmful information is found, mitigation.