These days, everyone wants to be an influencer. Being an influencer definitely has its perks, such as a taste of fame, a huge social media following, and sponsorship deals.

However, becoming an internet sensation isn't all it's cracked up to be. Most influencers build their online presence through a combination of social media, personal websites, and custom apps, but these tools can increase the risk of cyberattacks.

My company conducted some research and found that websites that linking to social media and other popular plugins are deemed high risk, meaning they're approximately 26 times more likely to experience an attack. In addition, influencers are often on the go and rely on public Wi-Fi to post new content in real-time.

Although documenting nearly every aspect of your day-to-day life is part of the job, it could potentially leave you susceptible to major privacy concerns and security risks. Here's how you can build a large, influential online presence without sacrificing privacy or security:

The dark side of plugins

Adding plugins and other features to your website can both attract and engage your target audience. The problem is these features can increase your risk of a cyberattack. This is because they provide more entry points that hackers can exploit, often resulting in more vulnerabilities or security threats. 

My company conducted some research and found that websites linking to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts are two times more likely to be compromised than sites that don't link to any of these. In addition, a website's chances of being infected with malware is 2.5 times higher when it links to Twitter accounts with over 500 followers. This suggests that websites with large social media followings are more likely to be the target of a cyberattack.

We also found that WordPress websites with 20 or more plugins are 5.8 percent more likely to be infected with malware than the average WordPress site. This is because the risk factor goes up with the number of plugins you have. In addition, it can be extremely difficult to keep all these plugins up to date, which can create security vulnerabilities for your website.

That said, there are important security practices aspiring influencers should implement to protect their websites, which include:

  • Keep plugins updated: Developers often release updates to address vulnerabilities in earlier versions of their plugins. Website owners should install plugin updates as soon as they are available to keep their websites safe from hackers looking to exploit those security vulnerabilities.
  • Remove plugins you're no longer using: If there are any plugins on your website that you aren't using, it's best to remove them. This way, you won't have to worry about keeping them updated and can avoid the possible security risks they might bring to your site.
  • Monitor your website for malware and vulnerabilities: To help protect your website, invest in a reputable website scanner. A website scanner is an automated tool that regularly checks your site for security vulnerabilities. Even better, find a website scanner that automatically removes malware and patches vulnerabilities when they are detected.

Internet popularity and privacy concerns

An important consideration of being hugely popular online is the privacy concerns that come with it. This is especially true when it comes to using public Wi-Fi networks. Public Wi-Fi presents security risks for all internet users, but the stakes are especially high for online influencers with popular websites and large followings.

The problem is that when you use public Wi-Fi without taking proper security measures, many unknown parties can see what you're doing online. This includes internet service providers, government agencies, hackers, and savvy internet users.

These third parties can spy on your activities, figure out your location, and see any personal information you might access. In addition, hackers can potentially hijack your social media accounts if you log into them using public Wi-Fi.

The good news is, you can protect your privacy online by using a reputable VPN service whenever you use public Wi-Fi. A VPN encrypts your data and transmits it securely through remote third-party servers, making it more difficult for third parties to intercept your browsing activity. Using a VPN is an extremely effective way influencers can protect their privacy and data from cybercriminals.

When it comes to online security, the stakes are especially high for entrepreneurs with large websites and social media followings. You're working to protect your website from cyberthreats--and to ensure the security and privacy of your audience and customers.

Invest in a reliable website scanner, install plugin updates, and use a VPN when connecting to public Wi-Fi. By taking these steps, you can continue to grow your online presence without compromising security.

Published on: Jun 19, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.