• Safe Social Media

    Read time (bolded): 2 minutes
    Read time (comprehensive): 10-15 minutes

    Social networking represents one of the most exciting developments in communication technologies that has come along since the invention of e-mail. Having become incredibly popular and widely adopted in a very short amount of time, services like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and LinkedIn represent a paradigm shift in the way people think about identity and being connected.

    However, one should always be wary of who you’re connected to via social networking sites. When we share information online,  it’s difficult to tell who will be privy to that information. Just your friends? Friends of friends? It’s important to know these things, so make sure you explore your privacy options on Facebook and Twitter to avoid blindly sharing information with strangers.

    Why should we be cautious of strangers online? Well, when we were children, we were taught not to talk to strangers, right? The same rules apply on Facebook and Twitter; attacks on your personal information can happen!

    Attackers often use features of social networking sites to spread malicious code and virus-laden links:

    • Third-party applications
    • Fictitious profile pages
    • Games
    • Private messaging
    • .

    Because of the nature of social media, oftentimes these links can originate from a trusted source – a friend, colleague or acquaintance posts a comment to your profile, but it’s not them – their profile has been compromised in a similar way and the virus or bot which has now taken control of their profile is canvassing said users’ friends list, posting random malicious messages. Scary, huh?

    Should enough information be harvested from your account, attackers could even assume your identity. Be careful out there!

    Controlling the information you share on social networks not only has personal implications, but professional ones too. Consider the case of a juror in the UK, who was dismissed after she disclosed sensitive case information on her Facebook profile. “I don’t know which way to go, so I’m holding a poll,” wrote the juror, soliciting opinions from her Facebook friends about the case. She was sacked!

    This may seem foolish on the juror’s part, but consider another case – a teacher in Georgia was forced to resign over photos of herself drinking alcohol on Facebook. Fair or not, posting information that could be objectionable to supervisors or clients is dangerous!

    Don’t let these situations happen to you – the information you disclose and the photos you post on Facebook or Twitter are visible to all sorts of people besides yourself and your close friends – fair or not, your virtual identity on social networks is very closely connected to your actual identity.

    There are some simple ways to protect yourself online:

    • Use strong privacy and security settings.
    • Change your password every 3 months.
    • Avoid suspicious third-party applications.
    • Treat everything as public


    Consider the figures: there are 500 million active users on Facebook and over 175 million registered users on Twitter. How many of them do you know? How many of them do you trust?

    Safe surfing!


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