Stolen passwords, illegal hacks, election fraud – this may sound like a crime drama, but what we’re really talking about here is a short list of Facebook’s recent troubles. With more than 2.23 billion monthly active Facebook users around the world, even if you’re not using Facebook it’s very likely that someone in your home or part of your family is. And the troubles that Facebook has been going through highlight the importance of protecting your information no matter what you do online.

Last month Facebook admitted that at least 50 million user profiles were at risk after attackers exploited a vulnerability that allowed them access to personal data. If you noticed that you were logged off Facebook or Instagram in mid-September and encouraged to log back on and create a new password, that was Facebook’s response to the problem. Even more troubling is that even though the issue that caused this vulnerability started in July 2017, Facebook didn’t know about it until September 2018, when it spotted a spike in unusual activity. That means the hackers could have had access to user data for a long time, as Facebook is not sure when the attack began.

This is just one incident in a long list of problems that the world’s biggest social media platform has faced. While we can’t personally stop deceptive or false stories, fake profiles or fraudulent advertising, we can take steps to protect our own information.

How to protect personal information online

When it comes to Facebook, taking precautions like changing your password regularly and activating two-factor authentication is always a good idea. Log into your profile settings and review the personal information you’ve shared via your account. Delete extra information to reduce your risk of exposure, keeping it to only the required essentials. Yes, it’s fun to share what high school you attended, but hackers use information like this for identity fraud or even to guess passwords for other accounts. (For instance, a lot of people use their high school mascot as a password or account security question.)

Strong passwords should contain a mixture of upper and lower case letters, as well as numbers and symbols for maximum security. Do NOT use the same passwords if you can, especially for banking or other financial sites. If the thought of remembering all those different passwords gets overwhelming, try using a reputable password management service like LastPass.

Two-factor authentication is often used by banks, credit card companies, retirement accounts, and other online financial sites. After logging in, you’re then sent a text or email with a verification code as a second layer of security. Some online merchants require this, others give you the option of opting in. While it may seem like an extra step, it’s a great extra layer of security, and takes much less time than it will take if your identity and accounts are hacked.

And finally, don’t save financial or credit card information on shopping sites. If that company is the victim of a hacker in the future, your information will be easy pickings.

With breaking news almost every week of illegal hacks into companies that we rely on for home, business and family, it’s necessary to be as vigilant in your activities online as you would be in the real world. Good password behavior and diligence using your accounts is the best thing you can do to protect yourself. If you suspect an account might have been hacked, please read this article for a checklist of what to do. And for any questions about your Softcom account security or help with passwords give us a call at (800) 982-7675 or 1 (888) 4-SOFTCOM, we’re here to help.