Social networks and new online services make it easy to share the details of our lives, perhaps too easily. With just a few clicks, posts and messages, you can give away enough personal information to compromise your privacy and even open yourself up to identity theft.
Hackers use information you post online to try and trick you into giving up access to your email, social networking and financial accounts. And sometimes they can use the information you post online to reset your account passwords so you no longer have access to them as your pet's name, mother's maiden name are often the security challenge questions for online sites.
Where you went to elementary school, your favorite food, where you honeymooned, your first grade teacher, father's middle name, mother's maiden name, kids names, birth dates, where you vacation, your high school sweetheart, your home phone number, mobile number and even your email address: All this information, believe it or not, unfortunately, is way, way, Too Much Information (TMI).
Not sure if you are guilty of online TMI? Take a look at some of these numbers:
Consumer Reports found that 52% percentof social network users have posted personal information online that can increase their risk of becoming victim of a cybercrime.
McAfee's recent study found that 95 percent of 18-23 year olds believe it is dangerous to post personal or intimate information (social security number, banking information about yourself, who you date, personal activities, etc.) yet 47 percent of them post this type of information online.1
Eight percent of 18-24 year olds have used their smartphone to send personal or intimate text messages, emails or photos and 40% of them have asked their ex to delete intimate photos or messages and later regret sending those photos or videos.2
Seventy-eight percent of recently jailed burglars admitted they used social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare to plan burglaries around their victims' posted vacation times.3
One in three employers reject applicants based on Facebook posts, according to a survey of 2,300 hiring managers released by CareerBuilder.com.
McAfee found that 20 percent of 18-24 year olds know someone who has been fired or they themselves were fired because of personal images or messages posted online.
Here are some tips to remember:
Don't reveal personal information--Seriously consider why it's needed before you post your address, phone number, Social Security number, or other personal information online.
Manage your privacy settings--At most, only friends you know in real life should be able to see details of your profile.
Change your passwords frequently--In addition to choosing passwords that are difficult to guess (try to make them at least eight characters long and a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols), remember to regularly change your passwords.
Only send personal data over a secure connection--Never shop, bank, or enter passwords or credit card numbers over public Wi-Fi or free hotspots, like in cafes or airports.
Turn off the GPS (Global Positioning Service) function on your smartphone camera--If you are going to be sharing your images online, you don't want people to know the exact location of where you are.
Consider sharing vacation photos when you're back home--Sharing photos of your trip and announcing you're on vacation is fun, but it's also announcing to would-be thieves that it's a good time to rob your home.
Remember the Internet is forever--Even if you have the highest privacy settings, it's good practice to consider anything you do on the Internet as public knowledge, so keep it positive.
Posting personal information and photos on networking sites can be fun and convenient, but it can also lead to identity theft, cyberbullying, or hurtful gossip. What's more, mistakes and triumphs that used to fade over time in the real world are now archived on online for all to see. In an age when smartphones double as shopping carts, photo albums, and even personal assistants, knowing what personal information you share matters more than ever. Before you post, remember to: Stop. Think. Is this TMI?"
1 TRU and McAfee, Online Safety survey, April 2013
2 MSI and McAfee, Love, Relationships and Technology survey, January 2013
4 MSI and McAfee, Love, Relationships and Technology survey, January 2013
Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! (Disclosures)