Social Networking is the biggest thing to hit the internet since it began. The sheer numbers involved are staggering. If Facebook was a country it would be the 3rd largest in the world behind India. It can be a massive force for good, yet it comes with inherent dangers, not least of which is to your security.
So here are 10 Social Networking Security Tips, to keep you safe and secure while chatting with your mates!
1. Don’t Publish Too Much
Don’t publish too much information about yourself, your personal life, and your family online. Things to avoid, if possible, are full dates of birth, mother’s maiden name, 1st pet’s name, 1st school, or make sure you lie to these types of things. After all, they are all used by major institutions as “security” questions, so don’t make it easy for someone to target you.
2. Assume Everything is Public
Always assume that everything that you post on the internet will at some point become public domain. The rules and settings employed by the service provider now might change in the future. Never post or say anything online that you wouldn’t want your mum, your boss, future employers or future partners to find out about! This includes “chats” with other people and “status updates,” all of which have the potential to be public or become visible to others.
3. The Internet Never Forgets
Unlike you and I, who have a habit of forgetting things on a regular basis, the internet won’t forget. That means the embarrassing photos from your stag/hen party will still be hanging around the next time you get married! And, even if you delete images or remove content, there’s a good chance it’s been copied, backed-up or cached by another internet service. This is an important fact that people tend to forget.
4. Don’t “Connect” with People You Don’t Know
Don’t accept “friend” or “connection” requests from just anybody unless you’re aware of the risks. Accounts of users are regularly monitored and targeted for malicious purposes with the intention of gaining something – either identity information or more often money in some way.
5. Don’t Trust Even Your “Friends”
Remember, unless you can verify the identity of a user account without simply trusting they are who they claim to be, don’t trust them! A genuine friend could have had their account compromised or someone may have set-up an account in their name with the intention of gathering information on you and others you know.
6. Don’t Announce Your Plans to the World
If you’re going on holiday to Thailand for a fortnight, that’s great, but don’t tell the world and his wife when you’re going, when you’re returning, which hotel you’re staying in and who’s traveling with you! This information is brilliant for burglars, muggers, identity thieves and anyone else who fancies free board and lodgings in your home while you’re away. Remember points 4 and 5!
7. Be Wary Of “Apps”
“Apps” are great fun, what harm could they do, they’re all provided by the site? This isn’t true. Many “apps” are developed by individuals and companies external to the social network you’re using and they often re-use code segments from other apps. As such, there’s no guarantee the apps you’re using are simply there for your enjoyment and aren’t harvesting your data. Now some harvesting is done for legitimate marketing and research purposes, but some of it is also done with not so innocent intentions. Be wary and don’t download/install/add the “app” unless you really need to.
8. Avoid Location Based Services
I know they’re the new up and coming “thing,” but I personally don’t like the idea of having my movements tracked, even if it means I save a few quid at Starbucks. Again, like point 6, you don’t know who else has access to the information and who knows if the terms of service might change at some point in the future?
9. Check Your Settings
All of the current social networking sites come with some form of privacy or security settings. Now these might seem confusing and a bit pointless, but it’s worth taking some time to go through and understand them to ensure you’re protecting yourself to the best of your abilities. If you need help, then see if there’s an FAQ, speak to someone who understands how they work or simply stay off the site. Either way, make sure you have the settings at the level you feel comfortable with, and that protects your data.
10. Never Post Anything Sensitive
The last point is almost the same as point 2, but here we’re emphasizing the need to avoid posting potentially sensitive personal or business information which could cause you or your company/employer harm. This could be something as innocuous as a tweet saying “Off to meet XYZ corp now, back in an hour.” There is the potential that this could be privileged information and might allow your competitors to see who you’re dealing with, or who your clients are. It could provide them with a competitive advantage or it could land you in trouble with your bosses, regulators or courts, depending on the issue at hand.
Now all of this might seem a little to paranoid for some of you, but if “they” are out to “get you” surely it’s not paranoia!?
About the author: Lee Hezzlewood is the founder of Secure Thinking, a UK company providing specialist services in Data Protection and Cyber-Security. Get help setting up your Security Awareness Programme.