Tuesday, March 22, 2016 


Financial News

Keeping Social Media's Dark Side at Bay

Be careful of security risks says local IT expert during Fraud Prevention Month

S. Pederson, Envision, Langley


ast month’s report of a Newfoundland woman whose Tim Hortons’ RRRoll Up The Rim to Win prize was stolen after she posted a photo of her winning cup on Facebook is a reminder that you don’t really know who your “friends” are on social media.

As March is Fraud Prevention Month, Ryan Smith, an online security analyst with Envision Financial, a division of First West Credit Union, is cautioning people about unwittingly sharing information on social media that can be monitored and used by cybercriminals to access secure accounts or finances.

“Most people share a great deal of information about themselves on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and other social networks without fully considering the security implications or ensuring sufficient privacy settings,” says Smith.

Smith says that recent years have seen an upward trend in cybercriminals who monitor social feeds and gain clues that lead them into people’s financial accounts.

In fact, your accounts may be monitored by criminals for a year or more before they take any action, and you won’t know they’re doing it,” he says. “Many people share a lot of information about themselves in 12 months.”

As cybercriminals get smarter, people must get more vigilant in how they protect ourselves. Smith offers three key strategies.

“A common way cybercriminals break into your financial accounts is by mining your social media profiles for the answers to your ‘Forgot your password?’ question,” says Smith. “Could someone find out your dog’s name, your mother’s maiden name or the city you were born in from the content of your social media activity?”

Moreover, your actual website account passwords are usually made up of many of these details.

“It goes without saying, but also ensure your privacy settings are set to the highest possible security options,” he says. “Sites like Facebook allow you to limit access to defined groups such as family or co-workers.” 

“In addition, keep your social media applications and operating system current with the latest system updates on both your computer and mobile devices. Turn on automatic updates to prevent potential attacks on older software.”

You’ve heard it before that strong passwords are critical, but creating and then remembering combinations of random words, numbers and symbols is a pain. Smith suggests trying a phrase instead.

“You can use spaces on most social applications, so use a phrase featuring some numbers and special characters, like My d@g is 5!, which would be very secure. Also consider using take password management software and apps to help you manage all your passwords.”

Last but not least, set up mobile alerts on all your financial accounts and access alert notifications on your social profiles. These features will give you the chance to shut down any suspect activity before it’s too late. 

“Nothing is foolproof, but being proactive about your online security will thwart cybercriminals and drastically reduce your likelihood of getting attacked.”


About Envision Financial
Envision Financial is a premier provider of banking, investment and insurance services for residents and businesses throughout the Fraser Valley, Lower Mainland and Kitimat regions. As a division of First West Credit Union, B.C.'s third-largest credit union with 54 branches and 40 insurance offices throughout the province, Envision Financial brings innovative products, an extensive branch network and local decision making to the banking experience. Visit envisionfinancial.ca for more information.

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