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Internet Security Tips
March 2, 2012 (published) | May 30, 2012 (revised)
Wally Mead

INDEX


Social Networking Sites

Sites like Facebook™, Twitter™ and MySpace™ are the three biggest sites where you are most likely to face a cyber attack. These attacks come in the form of malware and scareware attacks, spamming, and identity theft.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to set your profile settings to 'private'; this will make it so only people that you set as 'friend' can see your information. Don’t share too much personal information, ever! I personally don’t share anything that I feel is personal. Nothing online is private and you should assume anything you type online will probably be around forever.
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Your Profile: Be Careful What You Write

Many employers research applicants on Facebook™, MySpace, and YouTube in order to get a better picture of the person they may be interested in hiring. Creating an unflattering profile will surely have some impact on your future. You should assume that everything you type or any picture or video you upload will be online forever.
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Keep Private Information Private

Some people trust others and websites too much, and forget that millions of people can look at the private information they post; this includes criminals looking for their next victim. Social networking sites are the new browsing grounds for identity thieves, because they have found that some people list so much information about themselves that they can actually become that person. Someone who steals your identity can do devastating things, such as ruin your credit and even commit crimes under your name.

A new recent trend for criminals is to watch posts on social networks stating when home owners will be away. A simple post about a vacation or even being away from home at a certain time can result in your home being burglarized.  And be careful about the pictures you post.  Criminals often search the background of posted photos looking for expensive items to target for theft. 

In addition to criminals, stalkers and child predators are also searching social networking sites, like Facebook™, for more information on their potential or current victims. A stalker may find something appealing about you and may follow what you write on your page, or even try to find you in person at your home or place of business.
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Strangers are Still Strangers

When you meet someone for the first time offline, you may have a difficult time knowing if the person really is who he or she claims to be. The online world is no different. The online world is ideal for people who enjoy over-exaggerating their life, or making up a completely different one from their own.
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Downloading Computer Viruses

Approximately 83 percent of people who use social networking sites download files from other people's profiles. Since these files are usually coming from unknown individuals, some of them may contain viruses that either corrupt your computer, or attempt to collect personal information that can be used against you.

The first step in prevention is to only download files from people you trust. It's also important to keep your antivirus software up to date and turned on when you do anything online.
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Pay Attention to Short Links/Tiny URLs 

URL redirection services map between lengthy web addresses and shortened URLs. Such services are a vital adjunct to services such as Twitter, which restricts users to a 140 character message limit.

Spammers have begun using these URL shortening services because they help to disguise the true destination of promoted links, a factor which might go on to play a part in drive-by download malware attacks as well as already observed incidents of spam-promoted websites. URL redirection services require no registration, making their services more attractive for legitimate users and spammers alike.
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Final Words on Social Network Risks

All of these risks are not a reason for you to stop using a social networking site. Such sites can be beneficial to you; you can use it as a portfolio for work or use it recreationally. You just need to be careful how you use it and how much information you post and take from it. Just like the offline world, don't trust everyone and look out for suspicious people.

If you follow these suggestions, you can have fun without worry!

PRIVACY TIPS
  • Provide enough information for your friends to be able to identify you -- but not so much that someone could use information to steal your identity. There's no reason to include your entire resume, from education to work history.

  • Consider making your profile private so people you don't know can't "scrape" information and images from it.

  • Even if your profile is private, remember that your information and photos can be accessed by third parties through your friends -- and through application developers on such sites as Facebook™ and MySpace™.

  • Remove social networking applications you're not using and check out the creators of those you do install. If something seems suspicious, report it.

  • Don't use the same password for social network sites that you do for online accounts that have banking and credit card information.

  • Check for updates on privacy policies on various sites you use.

  • Never assume that anything you post online is completely private. Trust your instincts. And remember that, ultimately, the responsibility for the information, photos and video you post is yours.

  • Utilize the option of having a one time use credit card number (many banks now do this) to make a purchase online. Make sure any site you enter credit card information to is an SSL encrypted site. The web address will start with https:// instead of a public site that begins with http://.

  • Do not open emails or click on links in emails that are sent to you from people you don't know or organizations whose emails you did not request.  These emails could contain malware and should be immediately deleted. 

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Terms

Definitions are taken from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/)
Identity theft
Identity theft is a term used that is to refer to that involves someone pretending to be someone else in order to steal money or get other benefits. The term dates to 1964 and is actually a misnomer, since it is clearly not inherently possible to steal an identity - a more correct term is identity fraud or impersonation. The person whose identity is used can suffer various consequences when he or she is held responsible for the perpetrator's actions. In many countries specific laws make it a crime to use another person's identity for personal gain.

Malware
Malware, short for malicious software, is software designed to infiltrate a computer system without the owner's informed consent.

Scareware
Scareware comprises several classes of scam software, often with limited or no benefit, sold to consumers via certain unethical marketing practices. The selling approach is designed to cause shock, anxiety, or the perception of a threat, generally directed at an unsuspecting user. Some forms of spyware and adware also use scareware tactics.

A tactic frequently used by criminals involves convincing users that a virus has infected their computer, then suggesting that they download (and pay for) antivirus software to remove it. Usually the virus is entirely fictional and the software is non-functional or malware itself.

Spam
SPAM is the abuse of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately. While the most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam, Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ads spam, mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam, junk fax transmissions, social networking spam, television advertising and file sharing network spam.

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Additional Information

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