Timely Tips For Social Networking Safety

Social networking websites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and Windows Live Spaces are services people can use to connect with others to share information like photos, videos, and personal messages.

As the popularity of these social sites grows, so do the risks of using them. Hackers, spammers, virus writers, identity thieves, and other criminals follow the traffic.

Read these tips to help protect yourself when you use social networks.

Be wary of links
Use caution when you click links that you receive in messages from your friends on your social website. Treat links in messages on these sites as you would links in email messages.

Post judiciously
Know what you’ve posted about yourself. A common way that hackers break into financial or other accounts is by clicking the “Forgot your password?” link on the account login page.

To break into your account, they search for the answers to your security questions, such as your birthday, home town, high school class, or mother’s middle name. If the site allows, make up your own password questions, and don’t draw them from material anyone could find with a quick search.

Watch out for a friend’s hacked email
Don’t trust that a message is really from who it says it’s from. Hackers can break into accounts and send messages that look like they’re from your friends, but aren’t. If you suspect that a message is fraudulent, use an alternate method to contact your friend to find out. This includes invitations to join new social networks. For more information, see Scammers exploit Facebook friendships.

Protect your address book
To avoid giving away email addresses of your friends, do not allow social networking services to scan your email address book.

When you join a new social network, you might receive an offer to enter your email address and password to find out if your contacts are on the network. The site might use this information to send email messages to everyone in your contact list or even everyone you’ve ever sent an email message to with that email address.

Don’t friend everyone
Be selective about who you accept as a friend on a social network. Identity thieves might create fake profiles in order to get information from you.

Choose your social network carefully. Evaluate the site that you plan to use and make sure you understand the privacy policy. Find out if the site monitors content that people post. You will be providing personal information to this website, so use the same criteria that you would to select a site where you enter your credit card.

Posting is permanent
Assume that everything you put on a social networking site is permanent. Even if you can delete your account, anyone on the Internet can easily print photos or text or save images and videos to a computer. And don’t forget, Google caches!

Avoid apps and games
Be careful about installing extras on your site. Many social networking sites allow you to download third-party applications that let you do more with your personal page. Criminals sometimes use these applications to steal your personal information.

To download and use third-party applications safely, take the same safety precautions that you take with any other program or file you download from the web.

What You Need To Know About Social Networking

Social and business networking sites are changing the way people talk online. Sites like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo help friends stay in touch while LinkedIn and Plaxo mainly connect business users.

They are very popular but present challenges to small business owners. You can visit our website, www.MySpaceDisorder.com for our warnings about MySpace.

These sites seem to have come out of nowhere. For example, Facebook was founded in May, 2007, and currently has 70 million users. The rapid growth of such sites is part of the problem – you risk being caught off guard. Here are some of the top risks social networking sites pose to your business, and ways to manage that risk.

Inadvertent disclosure of confidential information is a large risk. You wouldn’t publish your organization chart and phone directory on the internet; but a head-hunter or identity thief can use information on social networking sites to reconstruct this kind of information.

Reputation risk
There is also a risk to your company’s reputation. Social networking is more public and less formal than company email. It is also easier to use than blog software. It’s easy to imagine employees posting pictures or text that would embarrass their employer.

Social networking sites can be addictive and timeconsuming. Cyber-slacking is a genuine concern, and difficult to control and monitor without security enhancements to your network.

Viruses and spyware
Social networking sites often display advertisements. At Tech Experts, we’ve observed that some of these advertisements have caused virus and spyware infections.

Broken privacy and identity theft
Some sites also allow third parties to run applications that have access to user profiles. This is a potential privacy risk. People publish a wealth of personal information in their profiles. This makes social networking sites a happy hunting ground for identity thieves and conmen.

We recommend that companies give serious thought to social networking and how they want to manage the risk.

Make sure your network is protected against web-borne viruses. At a minimum, every computer on your network should have current and automatically updated anti-virus software. For an enhanced layer of protection, install a firewall device that provides multi-layered protection against existing and emerging malware.

Have a clear and comprehensive Acceptable Use Policy in place. Ensure that employees are aware of what they can and cannot do on your company’s network. Review and update it often.

Set Rules for Personal Use. Use your company policy manual to spell out exactly how much personal web surfing is allowed, when, with whom, and under what circumstances. Of course, we recommend none.

Enforce your policies with an appropriate technology. This mean installing web monitoring and blocking software on each computer, or installing a network-wide security appliance.

No matter which option you choose, make sure you actively monitor usage, publish a usage policy, and keep that policy updated as new sites and threats emerge.