A Social Media Nightmare: Personal Data of 235 Million Users Leaked

Social Media Phone - Blog

Three of the biggest social media platforms, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube suffered a major leak where the personal data of 235 million users was exposed. The information leaked included names, contact details, images and statistics regarding user’s followers.

Although the information was leaked it was not the result of a cyber-attack. The data was scraped from public profiles by Social Data, a company that collects and sells information to marketers and influences. Social Data is known for collecting detailed information without permission, including a user’s biographical data and their location. 

While the data must be released in public in order for it to be stolen, it was still taken for the purpose of making profit. Users have no knowledge or control over their information being distributed or who buys it. Though the intended use of the data is still unknown, it is unethical for a company scan for vulnerable social media users who may not understand the importance of updating their privacy settings on social media. 

The Dangers of Personal Data being Public

While this particular incident is not a cyber crime, having a person’s private information go public could have serious consequences and expose users to real cyber threats. A cyber attack is always made more possible when a hacker has some knowledge of the person they are attempting to hurt. 

One of the most common reasons why hackers obtain someone’s personal information is to carry out identity theft, in which case cyber criminals can gain access to a person’s bank details, social security number and a plethora of other details that are sold on the dark web for hefty sums. 

Avoiding Third Parties Sharing Your Personal Information Gathered from Social Media 

The best thing you can do to keep your information private is to check the settings of your YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and even LinkedIn. Many users don’t think to play around with their YouTube account settings as there is little social interaction with these types of accounts, however, as they are all set to public automatically upon registration, you might as well have left your Facebook account set as public. 

Once you have ensured that all of your profiles are set to private, you should move on to securing your accounts by setting a different password to each profile. While it may seem like a tedious thing to do, it could make the difference between keeping your information safe from cyber criminals lurking on the internet. 

Something else that should be done in order to mitigate your chances of suffering a cybersecurity mishap, that is normally seen as a way of simply keeping your life a little more private from your existing contacts is to hide your friends list on Facebook and Instagram.

One of the key pieces of information that was sold during the aforementioned data leak was a user’s contacts, or their friends lists on their social media. This is valuable because marketing companies are able to gather several different contacts by accessing a single profile. To protect your social media contacts and yourself, it’s best to keep this information private before the data has fallen into the wrong hands. 

You should also consider activating a two-step factor sign in to your accounts so that you can be notified when someone has attempted to gain unauthorised access to your accounts. Activating this simple feature that most social media accounts offer, can help you to block an intruder from getting past a security check within seconds. 

Staying Safe

Your best bet towards keeping your personal information safe is not only by following the tips shared above, but also by taking the time to get educated and learn about the risks you encounter while being active on social media.

The internet of things is after all a vast place where you can have fun and socialise without going out, especially now in times of COVID-19, however it is also a dangerous place where you are exposed and vulnerable to suffer from side effects that go past your internet persona. 

Be wary of who you add to your contacts on social media, as you are giving them access to information that could hurt you, whether it is intended that way or not. 

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