Would you tell a complete stranger all about your family, work, love life, hobbies and interests? And give them some personal photos to look at too? Most people approached on the street would probably answer ‘no’ to the above questions. But on the Internet, that’s exactly what millions of us are doing on the hugely popular social networking sites and chat rooms. Online social networks are fun and hip, but they also present a major security concern for Internet users.
What are social networking sites? .
Social networking websites, often called “friend-of-a-friend” sites , build upon the idea of traditional social networks where you are connected to new individuals via people you already know. The purpose of some networking sites may be strictly social, letting users to set up friendships or romantic relationships , yet others may focus on establishing line connections .
Even while the characteristics of social networking sites differ, they all let you to give information about yourself and gives some type of communication mechanism (forums , chat rooms, electronic mail, instant messenger ) that permits you to bond with other users . On some websites, you are able to surf for individuals based on certain criteria, while other websites need that you be “introduced” to new people through a connection you share. Lots of the websites have communities of interests or subgroups that may be founded on a particular interest.
What security implications set these websites deliver? .
Social networking websites depend on links and communication, so they promote you to give a certain amount of personal data. When determining how much selective information to disclose, individuals may not exert the same amount of carefulness as they would when coming across someone in person because.
the deficiency of physical interaction renders a delusive sense of security . they tailor make the selective information for their friends to show, leaving that others may see it. they want to provide insights to impress likely friends or companions. While the majority of individuals using these websites do not get a threat , malicious people can be attracted to them because of their approachability and a better standard of personal information which is available. The more info malicious people have got related to you, the simpler it is for them to harm you. Predatory animals may forge family relationships online and then win over unsuspicious persons to contact them personally. That could result to a unsafe situation . The personal data may also be used to carry a social engineering attack . Using data so you might furnish regarding your locality, hobbies , interests, and friends , a malicious person could impersonate a relied friend or convince you they may have the authorization to get at other personal or fiscal informations.
In addition, because of the popularity of these websites, attackers may employ them to distribute malicious computer code. Websites which provide applications produced by third parties are in particular susceptible. Attackers may become prepared to make customised applications that sound like innocent while infecting your laptop or computer or sharing your data without your knowledge.
How can you protect yourself? .
Bound the level of personal information you post – Do not put info that helps make you vulnerable, which include your address or info about your schedule or daily routine. If your friends post info related to you, be sure the merged info is not more than you will be comfortable with unknowns recognizing. Likewise be considerate when posting info, including photographs, about your connections .
Be aware that the internet is a public medium – Only post info when you are comfortable with anyone reading. Including selective information and photographs in your profile and in web blogs and other web forums . Also, once you post info online, you ca n’t draw back it. Even if you withdraw the information from a website, preserved or cached versions may still subsist on others’s computers.
Be cautious about strangers – The internet makes it simple for people to misrepresent their personal identities and motives . Consider restricting the people who are permitted to contact you on these internet sites. If you interact with peoples you do not know, think carefully about the amount of data you disclose or to meet them personally.
Be skeptical – Do n’t believe whatever you see online. People may post untrue or deceptive information about their own identities. This is not necessarily done with malicious intention ; it could be unintentional , an exaggeration, or a prank. Take right precautions, though, and try to validate the legitimacy of any data before leading to any action.
Judge your settings – Take advantage of a website’s secrecy settings . The default option for some websites may allow anyone to see your profile , but it is possible to customize your settings to limit access to only selected people. There is still a danger that personal information could be displayed despite these limitations, so do n’t place anything that you would n’t want the public to see. Websites may modify their options sporadically, so go over your security measures and privacy settings on a regular basis to ensure that your options are still appropriate.
Be aware of any third-party applications – using third party applications for the entertainment or functionality, but be cautious when enabling applications. Avoid applications that seem suspicious, and change your settings to bound the amount of information the applications can have access.
Always use strong passwords: Always use 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.
Go through website’s privacy policies – Few websites may share personal data like email addresses or user preferences with other companies. This may lead to an increase in spam . Also, try to see the policy for handling referrals to make sure that you do not unintentionally sign your friends up for spam. Some sites will continue to send email messages to anyone you refer until they join.
Always update software, anti virus and specially web browser: install software updates so that attackers cannot take advantage of known loopholes or vulnerabilities, Operating systems do offer automatic updates,you should enable it. Anti-virus software helps protect your computer against known viruses, so you may be able to detect and remove the virus before it can do any damage, Because attackers are continually writing new viruses, it is important to keep your definitions up to date.
Children are especially susceptible to the threats that social networking sites present. Although many of these sites have age restrictions, children may misrepresent their ages so that they can join. By teaching children about internet safety, being aware of their online habits, and guiding them to appropriate sites, parents can make sure that the children become safe and responsible users on social networking websites.
Article by : Abhishek Dhabhai
Consultant Member: European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe( OSCE).
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