Perhaps a good psychiatrist can explain why millions of people have this compulsive urge to put almost everything they do on a social networking site. Whatever is your motivation for using a social networking site, it must be clearly understood that you are giving a lot of yourself away, even to those who are not included in your list of friends.
Take Sarah Palin. It is said that she made some very simple mistakes in handling her Facebook page. In the wealth of information she made available about herself, she included her wedding date as well. Her email account was with Yahoo! And her password to that account was – her wedding date! No technical expertise was required to hack her mail and the mail did get hacked and scattered all over the Internet.
Close to 66% of US households have a presence on a social networking site such as Facebook or MySpace. Therefore the amount of personal information available to determined searchers is enormous. Many cyber experts feel that we have yet to face the full impact of the criminal exploitation of personal data on the Net.
To be fair, the websites providing social networking platforms have built a number of safeguards. But most users are simply not concerned enough –until their data gets misused. A recent survey of about 2000 households revealed that nearly 9% had experienced some kind of harassment, malware infection, identity theft or a scam. Nearly half the users had mentioned accurate details about themselves or their families. People had exposed their children and most had not used the privacy features provided by these sites.
Here are a few of the most common errors in using social networking sites –
- Guessable passwords – Do not use passwords such as Sarah Palin did. If your hint question on your email account is the name of your pet poodle, and your facebook wall is plastered with pictures of Buddy and you, then it doesn’t take rocket science to get into your mail.
- Your date of birth is sacred for more reasons than one – the DoB is one step closer to the information one needs to gain access to your bank / credit card details. Yet most people think nothing of putting it prominently on their Facebook page. If you really want your date of birth to be known, at least hide the year.
- Use the privacy controls the sites give you – don’t give everyone access to all your photos. Why not confine contact information to just your email? There is no need to put your telephone and home address on the page either.
- Never put your children’s names and details on the site. You could easily be exposing them to danger. While you may have been careful to give access only to trusted friends, how do you know that their accounts are secure?
- Going on a vacation post – letting the world know you are off to Venice for a week is like putting up a ‘nobody home’ sign on your door. Come back from your vacation and then amaze your friends with the photos.
The critical issue about social media is the volume of data it has begun to store about us. Most users do not think they will be targeted and possibly one can hide in numbers for a while. But with automated tools to hack accounts, hiding in numbers is not an option.
The only way out is to understand the threat and take corrective action before it is too late.
As an (ISC)² member you can help education young people on these issues by joining Safe and Secure Online program. The program provides the material and framework for you to teach students at your local elementary school. For more information go to https://cyberexchange.isc2.org/safe-secure.aspx
Back in the day many of us became the go-to person for tech support in our families. Do you find that you are now the go-to person for privacy issues in your family?
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