If you own a business – online or offline – or just enjoy creating a website or blog, then chances are you will inevitably be involved in one or more social networks. Social networks have taken off tremendously in the past 8 years or so, and it seems most people seem to have used social network in one form or another. Today, networks such as Facebook and Twitter, have become an important part of reporting events and daily lives more than any form of news.
Of course, as with many things in life, social networks are not immune to risks. Unfortunately, many people have had malicious things happen to them, their friends, or their family because of social networks. While social networks can be tremendous resources, it is important to understand what you can do to stay safe while using online social networks.
Securing Your Social Network
If you bank or perform financial transactions online, then you know how important security can be. When it comes to social networks, you should approach those sites in a similar manner. Whether it is a bank or social network, both types of sites contain your personal information that you don’t want known to strangers.
Here is a few tips to help keep you safe when using social networks:
Create a strong login. While you may not be able to choose your user name, as some networks automatically may use your e-mail address, you can choose a strong password. Create a password that is long and strong. Ensure your password is at least 10 characters in length and contains letters (both upper and lower case), numbers, and punctuation and symbols. When it comes to passwords, the longer a password, the strong it is. You also don’t want to use the same password with other sites, so ensure that it is unique. If you have trouble remembering many passwords, you should look at using a password manager such as LastPass.
Encrypt you connection. Most, if not all social networks, now provide an option to secure your connection using SSL. This encrypts any data that is exchanged between your computer and the social network. If the option is enabled by default, and it is available from the social network, you should enable it. Web browsers will display “https://” beside the URL of the social network, and also display a lock icon somewhere on the browser windows to indicate the connection is encyrpted.
Be aware of phishing e-mails. Many times you may receive an e-mail reportedly from a social network, however, many times it could be criminals trying to get you to divulge your social network user ID and password. Such e-mails will usually contain a link to a malicious site that is disguised to look like the real social network site. If you receive such e-mails that you are unsure about, then you should manually open your browser window and log into the social network directly. From there you should then check for messages from the site.
Be wary of link scams. While e-mails are a major way for criminals to obtain information, they may also post malicious links on social networking sites. Such links will usually take you to a site that infects your computer with malware. You may even receive suspicious links from a friend after their account has been compromised. If you are unsure, or suspicious of a link from a friend, you should call them up and ask them about the link.
Be aware of what apps you have installed. When you add or install an app through a social network, be aware that the quality control process may not be enough to prevent malicious apps from appearing on social networks. Many apps require specific access to your account, so you should understand what permissions you are providing to each app, and what happens after the app is installed. Ensure you only install apps that are well-known and trusted, and only if you need to install the app.
While we all like to use social networks for different reasons, it is important to take the necessary steps to keep yourself, your friends, and your family protected. Social networks can be a very useful tool for a variety of reasons, but you must also be aware of the malicious activity that can occur if you are not careful.