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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: hackers

Red Riding Hood as a Warning for Social Media

Today, I have a treat for all of you. Kait Nolan, author of Red, (an AMAZING YA fiction–and I am SUPER picky) is here to talk to you guys about a subject that is near and dear to my paranoid little heart. I am a huge proponent of operational security. What does operational security mean in plain English? Understand your enemy and deny him access. Social media offers wonderful advantages to the digital age author. But, with new opportunities come new threats.

Kait is going to show us what Little Red Riding Hood can teach us about staying safe while traversing dark forests of social media. Take it away Kait…

   

I did a lot of research on the origins of the Red Riding Hood legend in the course of writing my current book, Red.  There are several iterations, spanning a pretty wide range of locales, but they all tended to have one specific thing in common.  The take home message was Don’t talk to strangers or there will be consequences. In most versions of the story, the consequences for Red spilling the beans “Oh, I’m on my way to grandma’s house!” is that grandma gets eaten. Pretty stiff penalty for not keeping your mouth shut!

There’s a real parallel of this moral in the world of social media.  Oh, not in the don’t talk to strangers part.  Obviously that’s part and parcel of what we do with social media—connect with strangers and make new friends.  But there’s a real tendency toward over-sharing in the world of Twitter and Facebook.  And I don’t mean of the “Man, that Mexican I had for lunch is not sitting well!” variety. 

All over social media you will see people Tweeting their location or Checking-In at places all over Facebook.  Other people will do the same, tagging everybody they’re with.  I seldom do this, other than checking in at the local frozen yogurt place for the 10% off discount.  Why?  Because all those “Hey!  Look what I’m doing at location X!” are great big advertisements of “Look!  I’m not at home!  Come rob me!”  A lot of people actually have enough information either in their profile or via their tweets and updates for the bad guys to find you.  Addresses.  Phone numbers.  Pictures of your house.  Pictures of your kids.  Your kids’ real names.

Thieves aren’t the only predators out there trolling social media.  There are stalkers.  Pedophiles.  All sorts of bad guys who look for their next victim through Twitter and Facebook because people are foolish enough to release all kinds of personal information about their location to the world.  It makes it really easy for bad guys to follow your movements, your habits, learn your schedule.  All of this just makes you easier prey.

In a recent episode of Rizzoli and Isles (awesome show, in case you’re not watching), a child was kidnapped because the bad guy had been corresponding with her via instant message on her smart phone.  His handle was one small character off from her BFF and she was so into the conversation, she never even noticed.  He arranged a meet and, thinking she was meeting her BFF, she went.  And got snatched.  Think this kind of thing only happens on TV?  Think again.  The FBI recently busted a local guy in my town for child pornography—and he was caught because of social media.  There are whole teams of law enforcement who monitor social media looking for child predators. 

Now I’m not bringing all this up to be a Debbie Downer, but I do bring it up to make you think.  Go check your privacy settings on Facebook—God knows they keep changing stuff to make you inadvertently release information you probably didn’t intend.  Nobody on social media needs to know your address, your phone number, where you are at any given time, your kid’s name, etc.  Nobody not on your friends list needs to know where you work or go to school. If it’s somebody who knows you in real life, then they should know that stuff from somewhere OTHER than your profile.  And use some forethought before you tweet or update anything about your real life that could be traceable.  It may not happen to you, but you can never be too careful.  There are worse things out there than the Big Bad Wolf.

~*~

Thank you, Kait! For some additional tips, here are my 5 Ways to Stay Safe on Social Media and still build an authentic platform.

Bio:

Kait Nolan is stuck in an office all day, sometimes juggling all three of her jobs at once with the skill of a trained bear—sometimes with a similar temperament. After hours, she uses her powers for good, creating escapist fiction. The work of this Mississippi native is packed with action, romance, and the kinds of imaginative paranormal creatures you’d want to sweep you off your feet…or eat your boss.  When she’s not working or writing, she’s in her kitchen, heading up a revolution to Retake Homemade from her cooking blog, Pots and Plots.

You can catch up with her at her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Her debut YA paranormal, Red, is currently available from Smashwords, Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon DE, Barnes and Noble, the iBookstore, and All Romance EBooks.

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, the day I dedicate to giving you guys tools and tips to make your social media experience more enjoyable, efficient and productive…and now SAFE. Most of these blogs are based off my book, We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. Today we are going to discuss a very important topic. Operational security. What is operational security? In a nutshell…understand your enemy and deny him access.

When it comes to social media, I see a lot of writers on both extremes of the spectrum. On one side of the spectrum is the writer who creates an entirely new identity. Let’s call her Paranoid Peggy. She doesn’t want her friends or family to know about her writing, so she generally does one of two things.

One approach is that Paranoid Peggy creates fan pages and Twitter accounts using cutesy monikers and an avatar. She feels that once she gets published then she can let people know she is a writer. This approach very often is driven by fear of failure and will destroy a platform. To understand my point better, read The Single Best Way for Writers to Become a Brand.

But Paranoid Peggy also is known to take a second approach. She uses a picture (maybe) but she builds all her social media pages completely separate from her personal life and under a pen name. This is an entirely acceptable approach, but not a wise one. This approach will cost Peggy a lot of duplicated effort that will cut into her writing time. To expound on this point, I recommend reading two of my earlier blogs, It’s a Pen Name, Not Witness Protection and Three Steps to Fan Page Awesomeness.

Paranoid Peggy also frequently has another behavior that can be harmful to building her platform. This type of writer often doesn’t divulge anything personal and social media is all about business. The problem with this approach is that social media is, above all else…social. Take this approach and a writer risks being perceived as little better than a spam bot.

Tweeting or posting about mundane things like, “My dog ate my shoes” is important. Now if that is all you tweet about then you have a problem. But, posting about mundane occurrences is like mentioning the weather. It makes it easy for people to approach you and strike up a conversation. Conversations are the foundation of relationships, and relationships lead to relationship sales, which is why we writers are here in the first place. 

My nature, believe it or not, is to be a Paranoid Peggy. I even hate those little stickers on the back of mini-vans. You know what I am talking about. The stick figures? Mom, Dad, three kids and a dog. So a robber knows exactly how many people he has to subdue when he breaks into the house. Oh, and hamburger full of sleeping pills for the dog. See? I told you I could be dark.

Anyway…

Today we are going to look at the other side of the spectrum…the Loosey-Goosey Lucy. On social media it is very easy to get a false sense of security. I see information all the time posted on Facebook and Twitter that predators would looooove to get their grubby too-good-to-work-like-the-rest-of-us-hands on. So, some tips to keep you social, yet safe.

1. Just because there is a box, does not mean you are obligated to fill it out.

Facebook in particular collects a lot of personal information with the intent of making social media more enjoyable. Okay, fair enough. But we have to be prudent what we put out there and cannot blindly trust that Facebook is above being hacked or phished. Facebook recently found itself in hot water for selling private information to retailers for the purposes of direct marketing. So, let’s just say Facebook is fallible.

Oh, but Kristen, we can set the security protocols. Yep, and you are fallible too. All it takes is one mistake and suddenly your cell number and address are out to God only knows who. I know Facebook means well when it provides you little boxes for all your e-mail addresses and home address and cell number. But, just leave them blank. The Facebook police will not show up and make you do detention because you didn’t finish your social media homework. If someone really needs your cell number they can message you and ask like a normal person.

2. NEVER EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE PUT YOUR BIRTHDAY….EVER!!!!

Yes, I get really picky about this one. My first job as a writer was to write manuals for a lab that did Questioned Document Analysis. Basically they analyzed handwriting and used all kinds of gadgets to detect forgery. It is shocking how easy it is for someone to steal an identity. What is even more shocking is how easy it is for us to prevent them from stealing our identity. Thieves love to get a hold of birthdays. And I know it is kind of a bummer because now you might not get as much digital birthday cake on your Wall, but tough tookies. If people are really your friend they will know your birthday. It stuns me how many Facebook pages I see with the person’s full name and the day, month, and year right up under the picture.

Please understand; these are easy mistakes to make. Most of us are not evil identity thieves and so it isn’t natural for us to think like one. So don’t feel dumb if you have to minimize this blog to go take down your birthday. I have made all the mistakes, too :).

3. Avoid specific information.

On all of my sites, you will see that I live in Dallas, TX or in DFW. I actually live in one of the satellite communities, but DFW is close enough for government work. Never post pictures of your home with identifiable landmarks or addresses. I have posted pictures of my garden, but I make sure that there is nothing in the image that could help some weirdo locate my actual home.

4. Have a separate page for personal stuff.

Do you have to do this? No, but it does make life easier. Sometimes you just want to talk politics and about the kids and your time at church or synagogue or Wicca Camp without it adversely affecting your platform. Facebook is not going to mind you having more than one page so long as they are active and you are using them. Facebook just frowns on having lots and lots of pages that people are squatting on the name/domain without interacting in the community. I have a separate page under my married name and if people want to see family pictures, they have to know me. This is the page where I talk to all of my friends from grade school and third cousins and writers who are my personal friends. All the security protocols are set to default to the strictest setting so I don’t have to worry that pictures of my family Christmas are being looked at by everyone on the Internet.

5. Never tweet or post a status update announcing you or your home is vulnerable.

Now, if you followed the above rules, this becomes less critical, but it still is just a bad idea to feed predators real-time intel. I see friends announce things all the time like, “Yay! We are finally leaving for Florida for a week. So glad to be on the way to the airport!” Um, they just told every potential burglar that they will be gone, how long they will be gone, and that their house is potentially unattended. I tend to get paranoid on this point. I will announce activities…but only retrospectively. For example, don’t post, “Off to the gym.” Rather, post something like, “Whew! Just got home from the gym. I feel so much better.” This way, you can get the benefit of the personal interactions without opening your home to potential threats.

Now that I have you all scared to death to use social media, calm down. These rules are just common sense. Paranoid Peggy and Loosey-Goosey Lucy are two extremes that we want to avoid so we can make our social media time effective for building our platform. Social media is a friendly place and it can be easy to let our guard down. It is imperative that we be social and friendly, but by employing a few checks, we can do so in a way that is prudent and safe.

Happy writing!

Until next time….

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Promo and the Mash-Up of Great Blogs Collected Just for YOU!

Writers! The sooner you begin building your platform, the BETTER! Some agencies now will not sign any writer who does not have a solid social media platform. That trend is sweeping publishing. Time to get prepared the right way.

Plan for success. If you don’t have a slick team of NY marketing people at your disposal, my book is perfect!

We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media is designed to be fun and effective. I am here to change your habits, not your personality. My method will help you grow your network in a way that will translate into sales. And the coolest part? My approach leaves time to write more books. Build a platform guaranteed to impress an agent. How do I know this? My book is recommended by agents.

You don’t have all day to market. You have best-selling books to write! So pick up a copy today.

Need a great workshop?

Best-Selling Author Candace Havens’s on-line workshop teaches everything from plotting to editing. She also brings some of the industry’s best and brightest to make you guys the best writers you can be. I will be teaching about social media the first week of October beginning 10/4.

Great blog on writing for children by Ingrid Hedlund. LOVED this post.

Wordpreneur had a page of great links for authors to help you guys improve in all areas of your craft.

Author Terrell Mims has a really fascinating blog about the possible origins of the Vampire Myth.

Michael Hyatt has an interesting blog on why agents may be opposed to self-publishing.

Chuck Sambuchino’s blog has geat advice for getting permission for copyrighted material.

Here is the Formula for Great Writing…literally. All fiction authors MUST READ!