AMU Cyber & AI Defense Intelligence Privacy Public Safety

Are Your Social Media Habits Making You Vulnerable?

By Leischen Stelter, editor of In Public Safety

When Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint of $10 million worth of jewelry in a Paris hotel, police and others pointed to her constant social media presence as a major factor in making her vulnerable. In response to the attack, the Kardashian family—who is notorious for sharing their lives through their television show and social media accounts—said they would rethink how they use social media.

While Kardashian’s wealth and popularity made her a greater target than the average person, should this attack serve as a wake-up call for the rest of us? Do we need to be more careful with what we share on social media?

Absolutely, says American Military University Information Technology professor, Dr. Adnan Chawdhry. People need to constantly practice caution and common sense, he says, which stems from awareness of the dangers of social media. “I tell my students that if they’re going on vacation, wait to post pictures until they get back. Just one sentence about where you are and the fact that you’re not at home can have a major impact and make you and your home vulnerable,” he says.

[Related: Protecting Yourself Online: Are You Being Careful?]

Comedian Jack Vale proved just how much the average person overshares with a video where he approaches strangers, calls them by name, and shares personal information about them—all things that he learned by searching their social media accounts like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.

Such stunts, which have gained a considerable amount of public attention, demonstrate that people need to be smarter about using social media. For example, people need to adjust their privacy settings and disable location services so their whereabouts don’t display on their accounts. While these are wise steps to take, such strategies do not offer true privacy. “When you post something, it’s out there and there’s nothing you can do to take it back,” Chawdhry warns.

Ultimately, the best way to maintain privacy is to not share information in the first place. But refraining from social media is often viewed as an undesirable option, especially to those in a younger generation. Chawdhry hears from his students that yes, they want privacy, but many of them don’t actually take the necessary steps to protect their information.

In his information technology management class at AMU, Chawdhry dedicates an entire week of the eight-week course to social media. “Students share their experiences and it’s interesting because students acknowledge they aren’t aware of some of the dangers, but many basically say it doesn’t matter,” he said. “To them, the benefits of using social media still outweigh the threats.”

Unfortunately, it’s often not until someone becomes a victim that they take action. “In the research I’ve done on social media, what I’ve learned is that people who haven’t experienced an incident don’t tend to value preventative measures,” he says. Despite this finding, Chawdhry continues to engage students in discussions about the dangers of social media and how they can reduce their risk.

While most people might find it impossible to cut social media out altogether, everyone should consider finding a middle ground. Social media platforms can be a great way of interacting with others, but certain steps should be taken to ensure that important personal information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Whether that means making your accounts private so only approved individuals can see what you’re sharing or simply being aware of revealing your location, we should all consider what more we can do to protect our private information.

Leischen Kranick is a Managing Editor at AMU Edge. She has 15 years of experience writing articles and producing podcasts on topics relevant to law enforcement, fire services, emergency management, private security, and national security.

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