For a lot of people, the Internet is a way of socialising, shopping, and keeping up with current news and events. What a lot people don’t realise is how much information is out there about them online. Each time we sign up for an online service, an email subscription, or a social network website, we are giving that website our information.
In most cases this is OK; most websites can be trusted with your information and look after it, only using it for their specific website’s function. What’s important is making sure that whenever you give a website your information, you are sure that the website will not pass on your details to any third party companies or websites without your permission.
When signing up for a service online, look out for tick boxes like the image below. Always read through what they say very carefully, as often they are worded in a way that makes you think you have said one thing, when actually you have said the complete opposite.
When using social networking websites, such as Facebook or Twitter, it is important to be aware of your privacy settings. When setting up an account with sites like this, you are often asked to provide personal information such as your full name, personal and business addresses, date of birth, photographs etc.
It is always the responsibility of the user to ensure their information is kept safe, so making sure your information is not public will mean only people who you allow to view the information will have access to it. If your information is not “private”, a simple search into a search engine could retrieve your information for anyone to see. Some unscrupulous people may misuse your information, for example use it to access your bank accounts and steal from you, or to take out credit in your name.
If you currently use a social networking site, why not have a look and see if your information is public by visiting the “settings” on your account.
The major dangers of using social networking websites
Over sharing information
When creating a profile page, most websites will ask for personal information such as;
- Home addresses
- Phone numbers.
Giving this information can be very dangerous as it will be made public to anyone who visits a user’s profile page, especially if privacy settings are not set correctly.
Social networking sites make it very easy to pretend to be someone else. Even if an individual may be friends with someone on the site, anyone can take control of a user’s account if he or she can obtain the user’s password. As a result, someone who is a “Friend” can ask for money or gain personal information that can be used to hack into other accounts.
Location-based services expose the profile user’s location. The service also has a feature that allows users to tag who they are with at any given time. While it can be fun to share your location with friends and family, it can also increase your vulnerability, potentially opening you up to being robbed, or worse. Predators can use this tool to track your movements and determine when you are alone or when you are not at home.
Third-party applications available on social media platforms, such as online games, are known to access profile information without the user’s knowledge. While these applications may or may not contain malicious code, the information gathered could be used for multiple purposes, including;
- Spam e-mails
- Accessing contacts without permission
- Criminal activity.
Make sure you completely trust the source of the application before agreeing to anything.
Simple Steps to Increase Safety when using Social Media
Don’t give optional information- when creating a profile; you do not need to enter all of the information that is requested. The set-up page usually requires you to fill out basic information, such as your name and email. Everything else is optional
Accept only people you know - Accepting only people you know and trust is a great way to ensure safety when using social networking sites. Use discretion when posting job related information on promotions, conference participation, travel status, current project, etc
Ensure any available security and privacy options have been applied
Be careful when accessing unknown website links or attachments
Report any suspected security incidents to your IT department.