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Internet Security Tips - Social Networks

February 19, 2013

weekly security basics article we focus on social networks

What is a social network?

A social network (also known as a community network or community) is a connected group of people who interact with one another. These individuals are called “nodes.” They are tied to each other through friendship, kinship, common interest, financial exchange, dislikes, close relationships, beliefs, knowledge, or prestige. The term "social network" is often used in conjunction with the Internet, and the websites that promote social networking. Examples of major social networking sites on the Internet include:

Facebook® - It serves as a social network, Internet dating site, game server, and a web profile. It can also be used by businesses and other entities to connect to other Internet forums for storing and sharing multimedia. It is a leading social network in the world.
Google +SM – This social network is similar to Facebook®. The main difference lies in the share settings and how you locate each person. With Google+SM, there is more transparency in how things are shared and other Google® services are integrated within the site.
Myspace® - This site serves as a social network for the online profiles of people, and is useful for storing and sharing multimedia. According to many of its users around the world, Myspace® is the best social network in the world.
Twitter® - Noted as a micro-blogging site, Twitter® is used mainly for small blogs and as a social network.
Tuenti® - Dubbed the "Spanish Facebook®", this site is headquartered in Madrid and serves as a social network for Spanish speakers.

Shared Hyperlinks

On social networks, people often share their web pages, online videos and images by simply pasting a hyperlink that leads their social connections to a particular page. Sharing hyperlinks is a great way to inform friends and followers about an interesting event or other information you’d like them to know. On the other hand, links can be abused by phishing servers or advertisements and you need to be aware.

Links shared on social networking sites are being targeted for malicious purposes. Hyperlinks may be changed and inserted on any social network so when people click on it, they are taken to an unrelated and typically dangerous website. The following example explains how phishing creators abuse social networks to get users to any page they want.

First, an interesting page or person is created; usually it is related to a current event. Then, people on the social network are invited to join. For instance, the year the Olympic© Games are being played, an attacker may create a page on Facebook® entitled “Olympic Games News”. Invitations to “like” the page are posted on various pages and shared. To make the page look legitimate, news and other truthful information about the Olympic© Games may be posted. When a sufficient number of likes is received, then a phishing ploy may be created (read about phishing in a previous security article). This ploy may come in the form of an interesting heading that has a hyperlink posted along with it. Curious people click on the link and now the attacker has victims.

It’s best to avoid clicking on hyperlinks particularly if you are not sure where they may lead. At the very least, be extremely careful about which links you do click on. And, if you choose to follow a link, be mindful of how you act and what kind of information you share on these sites.

Personal Information sharing

Social networks are probably the most common places where people reveal sensitive information at will. People talk about daily events, situations, their past, family, work and hobbies on social networks because they believe they are connected with friends. Be careful, people other than your real friends may be able to see this information, too.

There are many cases all over the world where someone abused personal information obtained from a third-party discussion. Even if you think your friends list is secure, you never know who is a friend of your friend and may be able to see the conversations between the two of you. This was mentioned in the article about personal information. Discussions about your pet, holiday or family members may be used for breaking passwords or even for crimes like burglary.

Learn security settings for your social networks

Social networks usually have security settings which can help you avoid abuse of your account. Locate the security settings when you are logged in and set it to the maximum levels that work for you and your usage of the social network. There are many articles and tutorials describing how to set your account on each network so protect yourself.

Be selective in adding friends

Before adding people to your friends list, be sure you know them well enough that they won’t abuse the information you share. Remember that social networking is not a challenge or game called “have more friends than the next guy”. People should have real friends and relatives as part of their online social network. You don’t need to friend every “mate” from your online games or add friends because their photos look good. Remember, you never know who is really sitting in front of the monitor so pick and choose your friends carefully.

3 basic tips for using social networks:

  1. What you publish on social networks is nearly impossible to take back or delete.
  2. Be cautious about using social networks along with work. Whether it’s adding colleagues to your list of friends, sharing information about work or using social networks while at work – all of these are risky actions.
  3. If you share any information about your family or close friends, be sure it can’t hurt them or be abused by someone else. Don’t let them become victims of your carelessness.

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