Facebook relies on friend connections and encourages you to provide a certain amount of personal information. When deciding how much information to reveal people generally may not use the same amount of caution in revealing such information as they would when meeting someone in real life. This is generally because of the following reasons;
• the internet provides a false sense of anonymity
• the lack of physical interaction provides a false sense of security
• when people share information for their friends to read they forget that others may see it
• people want to offer insights to impress potential friends or associates
While most people using these sites don’t pose a threat, malicious folk may be drawn to them because of the accessibility and amount of personal information available. The more information malicious people have about you, the easier it is for them to take advantage of you. The personal information can also be used to conduct a social engineering attack. Using information that you provide about your location, hobbies, interests, and friends, a malicious person could impersonate a trusted friend.
Additionally, because of the popularity of Facebook, attackers use them to distribute malicious code. Facebook is particular susceptible because it offers the use of applications developed by third parties. Attackers may be able to create customised applications that appear to be innocent while infecting your computer without your knowledge.
So the million dollar question is, how can you protect yourself? Let’s outline some easy points to remember;
• Limit the amount of personal information you post – Do not post information such as your address or information about your schedule or routine. If your friends 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 friends.
• The internet is a public resource – Only post information you are comfortable with anyone seeing. This includes information and photos in your profile. Also, once you post information online, you can’t retract it. Even if you remove the information Facebook, saved or cached versions may still exist on other people’s machines or on Google.
• Be wary of strangers – The internet makes it easy for people to misrepresent their identities and motives. Consider limiting the people who are allowed to contact you on Facebook. If you interact with people you do not know, be cautious about the amount of information you reveal or agreeing to meet them in person.
• Be skeptical – Don’t believe everything you read on Facebook. People may post false or misleading information about various topics, including their own identities. This is not necessarily done with malicious intent; it could be unintentional, an exaggeration, or a joke. Take appropriate precautions, though.
• Evaluate your settings – Take advantage of Facebook’s privacy settings. The default settings will allow anyone to see your profile. You can customise your settings to restrict access to only certain people. We recommend changing all your contact settings and privacy settings to “Only Friends” including photos. Also, be cautious when deciding which applications to enable, and check your settings to see what information the applications will be able to access.
• Use strong passwords – Protect your account with passwords that cannot easily be guessed and made up from things like your date of birth which is on your profile. If your password is compromised, someone else may be able to access your account and pretend to be you.
• Use and maintain anti-virus software – Anti-virus software recognizes most known viruses and protects your computer against them, 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.
We hope this information doesn’t scare you but “enhances” your Facebook experience.