12 September 2013
Staying Safe on Social Nework Sites
by George Roper, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security

As social networking becomes an integral part of our everyday lives, there are security risks that users should be aware of so they can take proper precautions. Whether you are using social media for social or business purposes, the fundamental idea behind the networking is to meet and connect to people you already know.

Social networking sites rely on connections and communication, and encourage you to provide a certain amount of personal information. When deciding how much information to reveal many 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

- they tailor the information for their friends to read, forgetting that others may see it

- 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 the amount of personal information that is available. It is important to remember that the more information people have about you, the easier it is for them to take advantage of you. Predators may form relationships online and then convince unsuspecting individuals to meet them in person, leading them into a dangerous situation.

Using information that you provide on social media such as your location, hobbies, interests and friends, can allow a person can impersonate a trusted friend or convince you that they have the authority to access other personal or financial data.

How can you protect yourself?

- Limit the amount of personal information you post. Do not post any 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. Once you post 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 skeptical! Social network sites are full of useful business information, as well as substantial amounts of useless information. People may post false or misleading information about various topics, including their own identities. Treat anything you see online (stock tips, advance news, personal gossip, etc.) with a high degree of skepticism. Take appropriate precautions and try to verify the authenticity of any information before taking 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. Sites may change their options periodically, so review your security and privacy settings regularly to make sure that your choices are still appropriate.

- 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. Try to locate the policy for handling referrals to make sure that you do not unintentionally sign your friends up for spam.

For more information see Socializing Securely: Using Social Networking Services at http://www.us-cert.gov/reading_room/safe_social_networking.pdf or contact the Fort Detrick/Forest Glen Antiterrorism Office at (301) 619-3446 or 0329.

Posted by PAO

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