Tag Archives: privacy settings

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Top Ten Tips for Safe(r) Social Networking

Category:Information Security,Infosec Communicator,Internet Safety,Privacy,Social Networking,Uncategorized Tags : 

No lifeguard on dutyDid you know you’re a target every time you go online? Did you know that cyber criminals are targeting social networking sites? Do you know how to recognize a phishing attempt? Following these tips will help make your use of social networking sites safer. (Unfortunately, there’s no way to guarantee that you can use them safely.)

Tip #1: Use strong passwords/passphrases.

It’s important to use strong passwords because automated “cracking” programs can break weak passwords in minutes. At a minimum, you should use 8 characters (preferably 15 or more), mixing upper and lower case letters and numbers. Many websites also allow the use of longer passwords and special characters. Incorporating special characters into your password will make them more difficult to crack. You’ll also want to use different passwords on different accounts. Using a password safe such as LastPass will help you manage these passwords by generating strong passwords and then supplying them when needed.

Tip #2: Keep up to date.

Attackers take advantage of vulnerabilities in software to place malware on your computers. Keeping up to date with patches/updates helps thwart attackers from using “exploits” to attack known vulnerabilities. It’s important to keep both your Operating System (Windows, Mac OS, linux, etc.) and your applications (Microsoft Office, Adobe, QuickTime) patched.

Tip #3: Use security software.

It’s a good practice to follow the requirements of the RIT Desktop and Portable Computer Security Standard on personally-owned computers. Among other elements, the standard requires use of a firewall, antivirus, and anti-spyware programs. Many security suites contain all of the elements needed to protect your computer. (Your Internet Service Provider may also provide security software.)

Tip #4: Learn to recognize phishing attacks.

You’ve all seen phishing attacks. They’re typically emails that appear to come from a financial institution that ask you to verify information by providing your username and password. Never respond to these requests. Your financial institution should not need your password.

Tip #5: Think before you post.

Don’t post personal information (contact info, class schedule, residence, etc.) A talented hacker can see this, even if you’ve restricted your privacy settings! Don’t post potentially embarrassing or compromising photos. Be aware of what photos you’re being “tagged” in—don’t hesitate to ask others to remove photographs of you from their pages.

Tip #6: Remember who else is online.

Did you know that most employers “Google” prospective employees? Have you seen the stories of people’s homes being burglarized because they’ve posted their vacation plans online? Many people other than your friends use these sites.

Tip #7: Be wary of others.

You can’t really tell who’s using a social network account. If you use Facebook, you’ve certainly seen posts by your “friends” whose accounts have been compromised. Don’t feel like you have to accept every friend request, especially if you don’t know the person.

Tip #8: Search for your name.

Have you ever done a “vanity search?” Put your name in a search engine and see what it finds. Did you know that Google allows you to set up an Alert that will monitor when your name appears online? Setting this up with daily notifications will help you see where your name appears.

Tip #9: Guard your personal information.

Identity thieves can put together information you share to develop a profile to help them impersonate you. Be especially careful of Facebook applications. They may collect information that they sell to marketing companies or their databases could be compromised. Do they really need the information they’re requesting?

Tip #10: Use privacy settings.

Default settings in most social networks are set to sharing all information. Adjust the social network’s privacy settings to help protect your identity. Show “limited friends” a cut-down version of your profile. Choose the strongest privacy settings and then “open” them only if needed.

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Digital Self Defense for Technical Communicators, Part Two

Category:Cyberstalking,Facebook,Higher Education,Information Security,Infosec Communicator,Internet Safety,Privacy,Risk,Social Networking,STC,STC Rochester Tags : 

Digital Self Defense for Technical Communicators was first published in the Society for Technical Communication‘s Intercom magazine in November 2010

Best Practices for Safer Social Networking

Organized crime is increasingly targeting users of social networking sites. Many computer criminals uses these sites to distribute viruses and malware, to find private information people have posted publicly, and to find targets for phishing/social engineering schemes.

Recognize and avoid phishing attempts. Phishing is a common technique in identity theft. We’ve all received phishing emails or instant messages that appear to link to a legitimate site. These emails and websites are designed to capture personal information, such as bank account passwords, social security numbers, and credit card numbers. They usually try to impart a sense of urgency, so that users will respond quickly. A 2009 study by The Intrepidus Group, a security consultancy, found that 23% of users worldwide will fall for a phishing attempt.

Detecting phishing attempts is not as straightforward as it used to be. Phishing emails once were easy to recognize because of poor spelling and grammar—something that most technical communicators would spot at a glance. Now phishing emails are often indistinguishable from official correspondence.

Use privacy settings. Many social networking sites such as Facebook allow the user to configure privacy settings to limit access to the information they post on the sites. However, default privacy settings are typically set to a level of access that is more open than you might prefer. Privacy controls may change, so it’s important to check your privacy settings periodically to ensure that the settings still protect information in the way that you intended.

Don’t post personal information online. It should be common sense, but the easiest way to keep your information private is to not post it online. Don’t post your full birth date, address, phone numbers, etc. Don’t hesitate to ask friends to remove embarrassing or sensitive information about you from their posts, either.

Be wary of others. Research by Sophos in 2007 found that 87 of 200 Facebook users receiving a friend request were willing to befriend a plastic green frog named Freddi Staur (an anagram of ID Fraudster). Freddi Staur gained access to their Facebook profiles and found that 41% of those approached revealed some type of personal information. Depending on the type of information you post on Facebook, it may not be the best idea to accept friend requests from strangers.

Search for your name. Use an Internet search engine to find out what personal information is easily accessible. Set up a Google Alert to see what new information about you appears online.

Keeping your information out of the wrong hands can be fairly easy if you think about what information you’re sharing before you post it.


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