Separating a person’s digital life from real life (or IRL) is not easy, and you may have wondered how social media influencers and other celebrities do it. Well, more often than not, they don’t do it very well. Since time immemorial, there have been numerous hacks and breaches, and notably, those involved the leaks of highly personal and sensitive images. Even the former President of the United States had his Twitter account accessed whilst in office! The dangers there are too numerous to detail.
“Gevers [ethical hacker from the Netherlands], 44, disclosed the hack immediately, saying the password he guessed was “maga2020!”
When news of the hack first broke, Gevers told De Volkskrant [Dutch newspaper] that the ease with which he accessed Trump’s account suggested the President was not using basic security measures like two-step verification.
The consequences of this getting into the wrong hands could have been catastrophic on a global scale — the President and we as fellow humans were lucky it was an ethical hacker and not someone with ulterior motives.
Unbelievably, more than half (57%) of those who had experienced a phishing attack had not changed their passwords as a result. Although I suspect the President did.
In the UK, the well-publicised and criminally-tried phone-hacking scandal gained notoriety due to its sheer scale and unbelievable audacity with its brazen intrusion into public figure’s lives. Private investigators even targeted victims of gruesome crimes, which they used as exclusive intel for articles in the UK’s leading tabloids.
“Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was found guilty of conspiracy to hack phones”.
Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire would be “tasked” to target a particular mobile phone number to acquire voicemails and report back to the news desk. Mulcaire kept detailed notes of each operation he carried out, including the target and who commissioned him. At one point, he was being paid £100,000 a year.”
Sadly, hacking and specifically phone-hacking, has been around since the technology came into existence. The risk is well known but largely ignored. True, our personal computers better detect and prevent malware; in the same way our mini-computers (i.e. our smartphones) adeptly stop viruses that would render our devices useless. But, our phone numbers, along with our online account credentials, such as logins for various apps, are still classically vulnerable to attacks and are frequently breached.
For many of us, our lives, all of the good and bad parts, are archived publicly online (but mostly good as we tend to filter out the bad). Some of us have more of our lives visible, some less. Still, without a doubt, you will have remnants of your presence, personality, image and family connections readily available online and all with consent. So if you are reading this, irrespective of whether you are a social media influencer, Tom Cruise or Jenny from the block, remember PRC.
PRC = Privacy, Reputation and Content.
To avoid following Trump’s footsteps and prevent unscrupulous individuals from targeting you, use the PRC (Privacy, Reputation, Content) habit. It’s a habit rather than a rule or top-tips because it requires regular checkups to avoid complacency. Social media platforms come and go; they change their terms, evolve their login process, require new/different information from you, and all too regularly to track. But by incorporating PRC into your digital lives, you can maintain a healthy balance of diligence and protection.
#1 — Protect your privacy.
Social media influencers (and anyone else for that matter) must protect their privacy and that of their family. Presenting yourself to the general public as influencers can open several doors, which is great most of the time. However, you could easily become the object of someone’s affection and drive unwanted attention. Sadly, these people can become dangerous, especially if they can access your personal address or phone number. On the other foot, you could also become the object of someone’s rage or envy, even if you have never met them. People who live and work for most or even just a part of their lives online face more dangers and threats than others. Protecting your privacy and personal information is paramount.
- Consider two-step verification options (where available)
- Get and use a secure phone number now (importantly not your personal one) across all your messaging apps and others where it’s required
- Turn off location settings on all apps that don’t need it
- Consider the type of information being asked of you and use placeholder details if you can
#2 — Protect Your Reputation
Influencers and Joe Bloggs alike must take steps to avoid reputational damage. Some hackers have no intention other than to wreak havoc on their victims’ lives, which is not something a social media influencer can afford or even contemplate. It might only take one unfavourable post to ruin the trust that your followers have in you, so you must make protecting it a top priority.
- Review what devices you have saved or authorised logins on, such as your desktop, laptop, phone. Ensure you recognise them all and are in current use.
- Consider doing a round of password changes, paying attention to using a different one per app/login. Look at password manager apps to help keep you connected by not having to reset your password every week!
Ninety percent of Americans that answered a security survey reported that they still are reusing passwords to access multiple sites every day.
#3 — Protect Your Content
If you’re a social media influencer, content is your bread and butter. What you create, post and share is the heartbeat of your business, and it takes a lot of effort. Clips might only take five minutes to watch, but it can take days, weeks, or even months to storyboard, shoot, and edit the content.
- Consider what cloud services or hard drives you have where your content is safely stored. Ideally, have both (and even more than one server) and back-up regularly.
- Also, consider what apps and software you rely on to produce your content, such as Adobe.
So protecting your privacy, reputation, and content is a must, and on average, recapping monthly on all the above is ample to stay diligent and safe. Some may call it over-cautious. I just call it smart.