In February 2015 U.S. President Barack Obama referred to the internet as “the new Wild Wild West.” With loose regulation, no clear borders, and a constant fear of bandits (who will henceforth be called “hackers”) this observation isn’t far from reality.Screenshot 2015-04-09 at 10.38.18 AM

While, like in the old west of yore, this untamed territory has allowed for the growth and development of game-changing industries, it also comes with a fair share of modern rustlers and ne’er-do-wells. Just last year Sony Pictures Entertainment faced a cyber breach of monumental proportions, losing 100 terabytes of valuable data to hackers. Not to pile on the Old West analogies, but that’s essentially the equivalent of Billy the Kid robbing Fort Knox single handedly. That’s why it is important now, more than ever, to be mindful of your own online security systems, especially when it comes your small business’ social media cyber security.

What are the consequences?

Turns out, it isn’t exactly difficult for an experienced hacker to obtain access to social media pages. This can be potentially fatal to the image of a small business, especially one that uses social media as a primary platform to engage with customers and other stakeholders. A hacker free on your pages for just an hour could do irreparable damage to your professional relationships. Not to mention the possibility of identity theft and the release of your private photography collection.

The good news is, the likelihood of a disastrous cyber attack happening to your small business isn’t particularly high. Unless of course, you’re one for picking anonymous fights in the dark recesses of the internet. Otherwise, just a few quick security measures can keep your pages safe from most online threats.

What can you do?

The first step in social media security is a diversified password portfolio. Sorry, “Password1” for your email, Facebook, Twitter, online banking, and Chipotle Online accounts isn’t cutting it. Use a long, unique password with both numbers and special characters to trip up any would-be hackers. A good example would be “GaZ0rPaZ0rP$pooky500,” or something equally ridiculous.

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Nobody is getting past him.

HOT TIP: Try to think of a password that can’t be traced back to anything you’ve posted both personally and professionally. Hackers will often look for hints posted on your pages.

This will, unfortunately lead to a large number of overly-complicated passwords which won’t exactly be easy to remember off hand. The best solution to this is a hard copy cheat-sheet, the hacker’s nightmare, kept in a safe place not far from your computer. For optimal protection, use a shorthand only you can identify to match up platforms and passwords. A large yellow legal pad with “Social Media Passwords” scribbled on top is more of a step in the opposite direction.

Finally, be sure to access these accounts from secure locations only. Secure, in this sense, means fire-walled computers that only you have access to. Avoid signing in on any unfamiliar mobile or lap-top devices, as they increase the risk of data leakage. Internet security software such as Norton or McAfee can be prime investment for small businesses, and can add further protection to your sensitive information.

Still concerned about your social media security? Check out the Federal Communications Commission’s Ten Cybersecurity Tips for Small Businesses. Using these tools, your social media will be safe as a bed-wagon in a bog hole. Sorry, couldn’t resist.