Social networking sites are online communities filled with millions who are looking to meet new people as well as connect with old. These networks give us access to tools, options, and opportunities that previously were not possible. With all of the new ways to connect, many doors for cyber-crimes have been opened making it more important than ever to know the risks and how to protect yourself.
Hackers thrive on social networking sites, especially those who wish to find and use personal information that users willingly post to the world. However, it is possible to use these sites in a secure way.
Top Tips to Stay Safe
- Use privacy settings. Many social networking sites and chat rooms have adjustable privacy settings, so you can restrict who has access to your profiles. Be sure to check this, as many sites are set to “public” or “friends of friends.”
- 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.
- Think before posting. A common way that hackers break accounts is by searching for the answers to your security questions, such as your birthday, hometown, high school class, or mother's middle name. If these are the types of questions you use to secure your accounts, especially financial, do not post this information on a social networking site.
- Don’t trust – verify. Just as you should verify that email messages are from indeed from a particular sender, be equally cautious about messages received on social networking sites. Hackers can break into accounts and send messages that look like they're from your friends.
- Don’t grant permission to scan. 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. Do not allow sites to do this, as the site might use this information to spam everyone in your contact list.
- Type the address or use a bookmark in your browser. If you click a link to your site through email or another website, you might be entering your account name and password into a fake site where your personal information could be stolen.
- 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.
- 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.
- Post only what you would be comfortable with the world seeing. While your account may be private and limited to certain viewers, there are potential risks of whatever you have online getting out to the world. Think about the language you use, the pictures and videos you post, and even what your friends post on your wall. Employers, college admissions officers, coaches, teachers, and the police may view your accounts.