Learn how to recognize the most common scams and protect your personal data on Facebook and Instagram.
I stopped sharing details about my life with strangers and locked down my privacy settings on social media apps, I blocked access for potential scammers. And I encourage you to do the same.
Facebook still has the largest user base, with 2.9 billion monthly active users. Instagram has 1.4 billion. That's a very large and diverse pool of victims for a potential scammer. I’ve added a short description of the warning signs for each scam and what you can do to protect yourself from them.
Your social media posts are a treasure trove of valuable information. Your public contact list alone can help a criminal. The list of names connected to your public social media accounts is enough for a scammer to impersonate a family member or a friend with a spear phishing email. In the email, the scammer may convince you to reveal private information such as industry secrets, login credentials, credit/debit card numbers, or embarrassing personal information.
You don't have to stop posting on your favorite social platform, but it is wise to stop posting personal information on your public feed. You don't know who is reading your words or viewing your photos. Give strangers less access to your personal life by trying these seven steps for locking down your social media activity:
Evaluate your privacy settings.
Your Instagram account is public by default so that anyone can see your posts. Set your account to “private” so only approved followers can see your posts, comment, and send direct messages. You can't hide your profile pictures or cover photos on Facebook, but you can hide almost everything else from people not on your friends list by tweaking the elaborate privacy settings.
Use a password manager and enable multi-factor authentication on your accounts. One of the easiest ways to prevent unwanted logins on your accounts is to keep your login credentials in a password manager and enable multi-factor authentication for your accounts. Facebook and Instagram offer a few kinds of authentication, but I recommend using a mobile authenticator app.
Keep track of third-party apps.
You may have many third-party applications connected to your social media accounts. For example, on Instagram, you can see which apps and websites are connected to your social media accounts by visiting the Settings section of your account profile and navigating to a section labeled “Apps and Websites.” If you see one you do not recognize, it could be a malicious app spying on your online activity. Review the list of third-party applications connected to your account. Delete any that you do not use frequently or do not remember installing.
Only buy from verified profiles and brand accounts.
Before purchasing anything via a social media platform, verify the seller's account. Legitimate brands on Instagram and Facebook are verified by the platform and have a blue circle checkmark next to their name.
Perform quarterly name searches.
Impersonation can happen to anyone. To avoid the damage of someone using your name, photos, or other personal information against you or your social network, make a habit of searching Facebook and Instagram for your name. It only takes a minute, and it is an easy way to identify and report impostor accounts.
Decline friend requests from strangers.
Not everyone wants to be your friend. Don't accept friend requests from anyone you don’t know. The more strangers in your friends list, the higher the risk you will be approached with a scam.
Never click on suspicious links sent to you or respond to unsolicited messages.
Whether it is an email or a private message, avoid clicking on unsolicited videos or links, even if you recognize the sender's name. If you think a friend sent you something, double-check with them via phone or text before clicking the link. Be especially wary of messages containing phrases such as, “OMG! Is this you?” or “Have you seen this yet?!”
If you need to access your drive for any reason, like repairing Windows or recover data then you will need your BitLocker recovery key to continue.
To help retrieve previously stored BitLocker recovery keys, this article describes the different storage options for finding your BitLocker recovery key.
If your PC is connected to a domain (usually a work or school computer), you can ask a system administrator for your recovery key. If your PC is non-domain-joined PCs, and you did not backup the BitLocker recovery key initially, you could also retrieve the key through the clouds, as long as your PC is signed in with Microsoft account.
There are several options in Windows 10 that may save the BitLocker recovery key:
1. Find the BitLocker recovery key in your Microsoft account
To retrieve the recovery key that was saved to a Microsoft account, go to visit this site: https://account.microsoft.com/devices/recoverykey, log in with your Microsoft account, then you will see that recovery key.
It should look something like this:
2. Find the BitLocker recovery key on a USB flash drive
To find the key that may be saved to a USB flash drive, plug the USB flash drive into the locked PC and follow the instructions. If you save the key as a text file on the flash drive, use a different computer to read the text file.
3. Find the BitLocker recovery key in the file
Retrieve keys that may be saved to your computer. If you have not removed or deleted it, you can look for BitLocker Recovery Key.TXT file on your computer. Try not to keep it on the same drive that you will need to access.
4. Find the BitLocker recovery key in the Paper Document
If you want to find a location where you can print or save your BitLocker key, you can find it in a paper document. Additionally, the BitLocker recovery key may have been printed to Microsoft Print to PDF and then searched for PDF files on the PC.
Windows PCs slow down over time. Whether your PC has gradually become slower or it suddenly ground to a halt a few minutes ago, there could be quite a few reasons for that slowness.
As with all PC issues, don’t be afraid to give your computer a reboot if something’s not working properly. This can fix quite a few problems and is faster than attempting to manually troubleshoot and fix the problem yourself.
Find Resource-Hungry Programs
Your PC is running slow because something is using up those resources. If it’s suddenly running slower, a runaway process might be using 99% of your CPU resources, for example. Or, an application might be experiencing a memory leak and using a large amount of memory, causing your PC to swap to disk. Alternately, an application might be using the disk a lot, causing other applications to slow down when they need to load data from or save it to the disk.
To find out, open the Task Manager. You can right-click your taskbar and select the “Task Manager” option or press Ctrl+Shift+Escape to open it. On Windows 8, 8.1, 10, and 11, the new Task Manager provides an upgraded interface that color-codes applications using a lot of resources. Click the “CPU,” “Memory,” and “Disk” headers to sort the list by the applications using the most resources. If any application is using too many resources, you might want to close it normally — if you can’t, select it here and click “End Task” to force it to close.
Close System Tray Programs
Many applications tend to run in the system tray, or notification area. These applications often launch at startup and stay running in the background but remain hidden behind the up arrow icon at the bottom-right corner of your screen. Click the up arrow icon near the system tray, right-click any applications you don’t need running in the background, and close them to free up resources.
Disable Startup Programs
Better yet, prevent those applications from launching at startup to save memory and CPU cycles, as well as speed up the login process.
On Windows 8, 8.1,10, and 11 there’s now a startup manager in the Task Manager you can use to manage your startup programs. Right-click the taskbar and select “Task Manager” or press Ctrl+Shift+Escape to launch it. Click over to the Startup tab and disable startup applications you don’t need. Windows will helpfully tell you which applications slow down your startup process the most.
Windows uses quite a few animations, and those animations can make your PC seem a bit slower. For example, Windows can minimize and maximize windows instantly if you disable the associated animations.
To disable animations, press Windows Key + X or right-click the Start button and select “System.” Click “Advanced System Settings” on the left and click the “Settings” button under Performance. Choose “Adjust for best performance” under Visual Effects to disable all the animations, or select “Custom” and disable the individual animations you don’t want to see. For example, uncheck “Animate windows when minimizing and maximizing” to disable the minimize and maximize animations.
Lighten Your Web Browser
There’s a good chance you use your web browser a lot, so your web browser may just be a bit slow. It’s a good idea to use as few browser extensions, or add-ons, as possible those slow down your web browser and cause it to use more memory.
Go into your web browser’s Extensions or Add-ons manager and remove add-ons you don’t need. You should also consider enabling click-to-play plug-ins. Preventing Flash and other content from loading will prevent unimportant Flash content from using CPU time.
Scan for Malware and Adware
There’s also a chance your computer is slow because malicious software is slowing it down and running in the background. This may not be flat-out malware — it may be software that interferes with your web browsing to track it and add additional advertisements, for example.
To be extra safe, scan your computer with an antivirus program. You should also scan it with Malwarebytes, which catches a lot of “potentially unwanted programs” (PUPs) that most antivirus programs tend to ignore. These programs try to sneak onto your computer when you install other software, and you almost certainly don’t want them.
Free Up Disk Space
If your hard drive is almost completely full, your computer may run noticeably slower. You want to leave your computer some room to work on your hard drive. Follow our guide to freeing up space on your Windows PC to free up room. You don’t need any third-party software — just running the Disk Cleanup tool included in Windows can help quite a bit.
Defragment Your Hard Disk
Defragmenting your hard disk actually shouldn’t be necessary on modern versions of Windows. It’ll automatically defragment mechanical hard drives in the background. Solid-state drives don’t really need traditional defragmentation, although modern versions of Windows will “optimize” them and that’s fine.
You shouldn’t worry about defragmentation most of the time. However, if you do have a mechanical hard drive and you’ve just put a lot of files on the drive for example, copying a huge database or gigabytes of PC game files those files might be defragmented because Windows hasn’t gotten around to defragmenting them yet. In this situation, you might want to open the disk defragmenter tool and perform a scan to see if you need to run a manual defrag program.
Uninstall Programs You Don’t Use
Open the Control Panel, find the list of installed programs, and uninstall programs you don’t use and don’t need from your PC. This can help speed your PC up, as those programs might include background processes, autostart entries, system services, context menu entries, and other things that can slow down your PC. It’ll also save room on your hard drive and improve system security for example, you definitely shouldn’t have Java installed if you’re not using it.
Reset Your PC / Reinstall Windows
If the other tips here didn’t fix your problem, the one timeless solution to fix Windows problems — aside from rebooting your PC, of course — is getting a fresh Windows installation.
On modern versions of Windows — that is, Windows 8, 8.1, 10, and 11 it’s easier to get a fresh Windows installation than ever. You don’t have to get Windows installation media and reinstall Windows. Instead, you can simply use the “Reset your PC” feature built into Windows to get a new, fresh Windows system. This is similar to reinstalling Windows and will wipe your installed programs and system settings while keeping your files.
If your PC is still using a mechanical hard drive, upgrading to a solid-state drive or just ensuring your next PC has an SSD will offer you a dramatic performance improvement, too. In an age where most people won’t notice faster CPUs and graphics processors, solid-state storage will offer the single biggest boost in overall system performance for most people.
Thanks to How To Geek
Connecting to an unsecure network? What security risks does a public Wi-Fi connection pose? Here's what you should know.
Public Wi-Fi, whether in a public library, coffee shop, train station, or a retail outlet, makes it easy to access the internet anywhere. You can use it to send emails, access your bank accounts, or browse news articles. But should you?
Though convenient and desirable for consumers, public Wi-Fi poses security and privacy risks. For instance, free Wi-Fi hotspots don’t need authentication to establish a network connection; this makes it easy for hackers to gain access to unprotected devices on the network. So what are the greatest risks you take when you connect to public Wi-Fi networks?
1. Man-in-the-Middle Attacks
When you access the internet via Wi-Fi, your device establishes a link with the router or server connecting you to the internet. A Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack occurs when a hacker positions themselves between you and the connection point. So instead of communicating directly with the intended parties, you’re sending your data to the attacker, who then relays it on.
Cybercriminals often use special software to view and manipulate the traffic coming in and out of your device. This means they can steal login details, change payment details, or learn where an order is to be delivered.
Attackers can also steal your credit card information and commit financial fraud. They can make purchases, withdraw money, and even apply for loans in your name.
2. Malware Infections
Hackers can infect an unsecured Wi-Fi connection with malware, which then infects the devices that connect to it. Some attackers can hack the connection point itself and send you fake pop-ups requesting you to update a popular software. Clicking it installs the malware.
Once the malware infects your device, the hacker can steal sensitive information, delete files, and make your device inoperable. The worst part is that you might not even notice your device has been infected with malware.
3. Snooping and Sniffing
Hackers can eavesdrop on unsecured public Wi-Fi networks. Using special software, an attacker on the network can see what you’re doing on your device while using public Wi-Fi.
Sometimes, the hacker will just read your browsing history. If you’re unlucky, the attacker may steal your login details to steal sensitive information resulting in a data breach.
Bad actors may also use special software to capture data packets flowing between networked computers. This allows the attackers to capture the information sent across the network, including details like passwords and IP addresses.
4. Evil Twin Attacks
The “evil twin” or honeypot attack is a type of attack where a cybercriminal sets up a malicious Wi-Fi hotspot, often intending to steal users’ data.
Many people will select a Wi-Fi hotspot if its name sounds appropriate, and almost anyone can set up malicious hotspots that seem legitimate. These hotspots are meant to trick you into connecting to them.
Cybercriminals can set up a rogue hotspot and record unencrypted information passing through it. To create the fake access point, attackers usually set up their own “free Wi-Fi hotspots” with the name of a nearby business, like a coffee shop or restaurant.
Once you connect your device to the malicious hotspot, the hacker can monitor and steal your personal information, including logins and banking information. The attackers can also perform variations of the MitM attacks, such as DNS-based attacks, forcing you to visit their favorite unencrypted websites.
Bottom line: The dos and don'ts of using public Wi-Fi
Do connect to secured public networks whenever possible. In the event that you’re unable to connect to a secured network, using an unsecured network would be permissible if the connection requires some sort of login or registration.
Your cellphone hotspot is the best secure connection.
Don't access personal bank accounts, or sensitive personal data, on unsecured public networks. Even secured networks can be risky. Use your best judgment if you must access these accounts on public Wi-Fi.
Don't leave your laptop, tablet, or smartphone unattended in a public place. Even if you’re working on a secure Wi-Fi network, that won’t stop someone from taking your property or sneaking a peek at your device.
Don't shop online when using public Wi-Fi. Sure, shopping doesn’t seem like it involves sensitive data, but making purchases online requires personal information that could include bank account and retailer login credentials. Shopping isn’t something you want to do on an unsecured Wi-Fi network.
Do turn off automatic connectivity. Most smartphones, laptops, and tablets have automatic connectivity settings, which allow you to seamlessly connect from one hotspot to the next. This is a convenient feature, but it can also connect your devices to networks you ordinarily would not use. Keep these settings turned off, especially when you’re traveling to unfamiliar places.
Do monitor your Bluetooth connectivity. Bluetooth in the home is an amazing feature on many smart devices. However, leaving Bluetooth on while in public places can pose a huge risk to your cybersecurity. Bluetooth connectivity allows various devices to communicate with each other, and a hacker can look for open Bluetooth signals to gain access to your devices. Keep this function on your phone and other devices locked down when you leave your home, office, or similar secured area.
Do think about using a virtual private network (VPN) solution to ensure your privacy and anonymity are protected when you use public Wi-Fi. VPN services, like the new Norton Secure VPN, can encrypt all the data that you send and receive while using a public Wi-Fi hotspot, securing your information from other users of the same connection.