Let’s talk a little bit about company privacy in general first…
Companies store a ton of data.
You know this.
Everyone knows this.
But we’re not always happy about the kinds of data they store.
We rightfully get pretty touchy when we hear our address, credit card number, mental health inquiries, or private conversations are just hanging out on some internet server where they might wind up in the wrong hands.
An employee of the company that collected them.
The latest example: Motherboard is reporting that Snapchat employees have a special tool called SnapLion that can give them access to your location, phone numbers, email addresses, even your saved Snaps…
And that some employees have actually abused it to spy on users.
No, Snapchat has a security culture issue and an ethical issue, and their external data breaches also strongly suggest a security culture issue and a security process issue.
But your question is an important one for social networks in general…
So let’s take a minute and talk about how you can go out after today and stay safe on social networks.
The popularity of social networking sites continues to increase, especially among teenagers and young adults.
The nature of these sites introduces security risks, so you should take certain precautions.
What are social networking sites?
Social networking sites, sometimes referred to as “friend-of-a-friend” sites, build upon the concept of traditional social networks where you are connected to new people through people you already know.
The purpose of some networking sites may be purely social, allowing users to establish friendships or romantic relationships, while others may focus on establishing business connections.
Although the features of social networking sites differ, they all allow you to provide information about yourself and offer some type of communication mechanism.
This is usually forums, chat rooms, email, or instant messages that enable you to connect with other users.
On some sites, you can browse for people based on certain criteria, while other sites require that you be “introduced” to new people through a connection you share.
Many of the sites have communities or subgroups that may be based on a particular interest.
What security implications do these sites present?
Social networking sites rely on connections and communication, so they encourage you to provide a certain amount of personal information.
When deciding how much information to reveal, people may not exercise the same amount of caution as they would when meeting someone in person because the internet provides a sense of anonymity.
The lack of physical interaction provides a false sense of security.
People tend to tailor the information for their friends to read, forgetting that others may see it.
Often they want to offer insights to impress potential friends or associates.
While the majority of people using these sites do not pose a threat, malicious people may be drawn to them because of the accessibility and amount of personal information that’s available.
The more information malicious people have about you, the easier it’s for them to take advantage of you.
Predators may form relationships online and then convince unsuspecting individuals to meet them in person.
That could lead to a dangerous situation.
The personal information can also be used to conduct a social engineering attack.
Using information that you provide about your location, hobbies, interests, and friends, a malicious person could impersonate a trusted friend or convince you that they have the authority to access other personal or financial data.
Additionally, because of the popularity of these sites, attackers may use them to distribute malicious code.
Sites that offer applications developed by third parties are particularly susceptible.
Attackers may be able to create customized applications that appear to be innocent while infecting your computer or sharing your information without your knowledge.
How can you protect yourself?
Limit the amount of personal information you post.
Don’t post information that would make you vulnerable, such as your address or information about your schedule or routine.
If your connections post information about you, make sure the combined information is not more than you would be comfortable with strangers knowing.
Also be considerate when posting information, including photos, about your connections.
Remember that the internet is a public resource.
Only post information you are comfortable with anyone seeing.
This includes information and photos in your profile and in blogs and other forums.
Also, once you post information online, you can’t retract it.
Even if you remove the information from a site, saved or cached versions may still exist on other people’s machines.
Be wary of strangers.
The internet makes it easy for people to misrepresent their identities and motives.
Consider limiting the people who are allowed to contact you on these sites.
If you interact with people you do not know, be cautious about the amount of information you reveal or agreeing to meet them in person.
Don’t believe everything you read online.
People may post false or misleading information about various topics, including their own identities.
This is not necessarily done with malicious intent; it could be unintentional, an exaggeration, or a joke.
Take appropriate precautions, though, and try to verify the authenticity of any information before taking any action.
Evaluate your settings.
Take advantage of a site’s privacy settings.
The default settings for some sites may allow anyone to see your profile, but you can customize your settings to restrict access to only certain people.
There’s still a risk that private information could be exposed despite these restrictions, so don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want the public to see.
Sites may change their options periodically, so review your security and privacy settings regularly to make sure that your choices are still appropriate.
Be wary of third-party applications.
Third-party applications may provide entertainment or functionality, but use caution when deciding which applications to enable.
Avoid applications that seem suspicious, and modify your settings to limit the amount of information the applications can access.
Use strong passwords.
Protect your account with passwords that cannot easily be guessed.
If your password is compromised, someone else may be able to access your account and pretend to be you.
Check privacy policies.
Some sites may share information such as email addresses or user preferences with other companies.
This may lead to an increase in spam.
Also, try to locate the policy for handling referrals to make sure that you do not unintentionally sign your friends up for spam.
Some sites will continue to send email messages to anyone you refer until they join.
Keep software, particularly your web browser, up to date.
Install software updates so that attackers cannot take advantage of known problems or vulnerabilities.
Many operating systems offer automatic updates.
If this option is available, you should enable it.
Use and maintain anti-virus software
Anti-virus software helps protect your computer against known viruses, so you may be able to detect and remove the virus before it can do any damage.
Because attackers are continually writing new viruses, it’s important to keep your definitions up to date.
Children are especially susceptible to the threats that social networking sites present.
Although many of these sites have age restrictions, children may misrepresent their ages so that they can join.
By teaching children about Internet safety, being aware of their online habits, and guiding them to appropriate sites, parents can make sure that the children become safe and responsible users.
So now you know the basics of staying safe online…
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to basic cybersecurity awareness everybody should have as second nature to keep themselves safe.
You’ll get lifetime access and it’s like we’re getting together and discussing a different cybersecurity topic each day for 10 weeks.
Plus you can easily ask questions and get answers, even long after you’ve finished the videos.
P.S. I don’t want to see any of my readers have their identity stolen or their bank account compromised because they unknowingly took risks on social networks.
Please share this answer with your friends and coworkers if you think they may be taking risks on social networks like Facebook or Twitter using the Share Arrow in the lower right.
P.P.S. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive solution for your business, I also offer Security-Culture-as-a-Service.
It includes the course above, as well as simple resources for testing employees, building up security culture, and quickly developing policies to guide your organization.
Feel free to contact me directly by email at: “david[at]hailbytes.com”