U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., reacts during a news conference in New York, Monday, June 6, 2011. After days of denials, a choked-up New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner confessed Monday that he tweeted a bulging-underpants photo of himself to a young woman and admitted to "inappropriate" exchanges with six women before and after getting married.AP Photo/Richard Drew
Are you a Tweet from disaster?
Anthony Weiner's unraveling was accidental, the congressman said: He omitted a single character in a single Twitter message, and sent a very private message very public.
He's not alone. From suggestive emails to accidental birthday party invitations for millions, it's all too easy with today's social media to broadcast far more than you intended. And there's little you can do to retract embarrassing material that his the web by accident, said Robert Siciliano, a security consultant and speaker.
“You’re screwed. Even if you delete what you post, digital is repeatable,” he told FoxNews.com. “Someone may have already copied and pasted it.”
So don't do it in the first place. Here's surefire insurance to make sure you don't have a Weiner moment.
Direct messaging from cell phones is especially dangerous: The difference between sending a public message to all followers and a private message to that special someone is the letter "d". Forget the letter and the "d" stands for "doomed." Be extra careful before pressing submit, or better yet keep the Tweeting to the computer.
Tim Rohrbaugh, vice president at security-firm Intersections, warns that Twitter itself is inherently insecure anyway: You don't have to prove who you are, there is no real authentication, and most security settings are turned off by default. “Accessing an account holder's data by acting as them simply requires a username and password,” Rohrbaugh said. Now is the time to change your password -- and then don't share it.
YFrog, Twitpic, etc.
Yfrog, the service Weiner used to upload his dirty photos, was easily hackable up until last week, said Hap Aziz, a technology director at Rasmussen College. Anyone who knew Weiner’s e-mail address or had access to his phone could have sent a picture to the service. (As of June 2, Yfrog changed this upload feature.)
To protect yourself, use a strong password -- a combination of letters, numbers, and characters. If you’re using a password like “baseball” today, and that’s your favorite sport, your account is easily hacked. Aziz said most users tend to use the same password for every account, another mistake; use a different one for every service.
On Facebook, chatting with strangers seems innocuous. But remember that anything can be saved and used against you. Even if you delete something, someone -- somewhere -- will have saved it.
That said, Facebook security is a hair better than Twitter. Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesperson, told FoxNews.com that the service just recently added a new security measure whereby you can approve access from a computer other than the one you normally use. Take advantage of it.
“We’ve built numerous defenses to combat unauthorized access that work behind the scenes to detect and flag Facebook accounts based on anomalous activity like lots of messages sent in a short period of time or messages with links that are known to be bad,” Noyes told FoxNews.com.
Worried that your emails may go out to the wrong places? Siciliano said some tools can help. Google Gmail has a feature that delays e-mail transmissions. If you fire off a hateful message, you can click cancel before it sends -- and you can stretch out the duration of the undo period to as much as 30 seconds.
Make sure it's enabled, then adjust when it's active in the General settings. Turn it on and always double check the recipient -- after you've sent a message.
If you're extra worried, there are services that can monitor what's out there for you. Both myID.com and SafetyWeb scour the Internet for questionable activity, ensuring that others don't corrupt your online rep -- and that you haven't let something slip by accident.
Experts warn that oversharing is dangerous -- identity theft is one of the most common security breaches. And being careful about your online activities is the only way to avoid your own Weinergate.