Tag Archives: Social media

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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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Parenting in the Cyber Age: A Parents’ Guide to Safer Social Networking

Category:Cyberstalking,Facebook,Infosec Communicator,Internet Safety,Privacy,Risk,Social Networking,Uncategorized Tags : 

At the computer
Are you as a parent worried about what your kids may encounter online? Are you unsure of how they or you can stay safe online when using social networking sites?  Although our kids are now college grads, we had the same concerns about the dangers our kids faced online as most of you do.

In my professional life, I’m a technical communicator at a large private technology university. I am responsible for making staff and students aware of information security issues—a role which has probably made me even more paranoid about the dangers out there on the Internet!

I’ve also had the opportunity to take part in a few K-12 Cyber Security Awareness initiative that gave me an opportunity to talk to teachers and parents about online issues and listen to their questions and concerns. I’ll address some of these concerns in this post. I am also interested in what you would like to know about security issues, so please comment on this post.

Oh…one other thing…my goal is to make this topic understandable for the average layperson. You do not need to be a technology expert to learn how to stay safe online and to keep your kids safe!

Social Networking Concerns

In the last several years, teens and young adults have flocked to social networking sites or blogging sites, such as MySpace and Facebook. This has given them opportunities to meet and communicate with people of similar interests, share information, gather numerous “friends,” share pictures and videos, and even discuss important issues. (Most of these social networking sites are inappropriate for preteens. Although most social networking sites require members to be at least 13, enforcement is next to impossible.)

Risks and Preventive Measures

Sharing Private information—It is extremely easy for unscrupulous people to gain access to you and your children’s private information. When your kids use social networking sites, read the site’s privacy policy. It tells you what information the owners of the web site collect, and how they intend to use it. Make sure that you and your kids understand how that information may be shared.

Profiles—Encourage your kids to guard their information. Keep private information private. Ask them to restrict access to their profiles, when possible, to “friends only.”

You may find that it’s hard for teenagers to take this seriously and understand the risks. Help them choose screen names carefully. Help them choose a reasonably “complex” password—at least 8 characters using a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols (when allowed).

Blogs—Encourage your kids to not share personal information, including their ages, schools, addresses, phone numbers, and parent and sibling names. Make sure they’re not posting information about their social plans. (Don’t give someone who is cyber stalking them information about where they’ll be at a given time.)

Moderating Comments—Ask your kids to approve comments by their friends before they allow them to be posted. Their friends may be less than careful with both their own and your kids’ information.

Inappropriate language and pictures—College admissions offices and potential employers search online to see what kind of information prospective students and employees post online, especially in social networking sites. If they see what appear to be “character issues” portrayed, your teens may not be accepted for their college or job of choice.

Making themselves a target—People can pose as anybody online. That 15-year-old friend might be a 45-year-old male looking for “company.” Sexual predators use social networking sites to identify and engage potential victims. Identity thieves look for private information to use to gain access to victim’s bank accounts or credit.

It’s forever—There is another big problem most of us do not think about. Information we post online NEVER really goes away. Even when you delete a blog entry or a picture, it is “cached” somewhere on the Internet. There are sites on the Internet that specialize in archiving other Web sites.

What you can do

  1. Talk to your kids.
  2. Ask them to help you set up your own profile and page on the same sites they use.
  3. Subscribe to their blogs and read what they are posting.
  4. Respond to their posts.
  5. Look at the pictures they have chosen to share.
  6. Find out who their friends are and see what kind of information they share.
  7. If you have a family computer, try to put it in an open area where you can see your kids’ online activities.
  8. If your family has multiple computers sharing an internet connection through a router, you may want to consider restricting the times their computers can connect to the Internet. Restricting access to reasonable hours helps ensure that they (or you) are not spending all night online.

My philosophy as a parent has been to teach my children how to interact with the world while maintaining their spiritual values. Despite your best efforts, your children are going to encounter these dangers at some time. In my experience, you cannot prevent them from doing something they are intent on doing.

Let’s make sure they know how to protect themselves now, before they’re in an environment where we aren’t there to supervise or teach these lessons.

An earlier version of this article was published previously in Christian Computing Magazine.
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Digital Self Defense Workshop 101 (RRLC)

Category:Cyberstalking,Facebook,Higher Education,Information Security,Infosec Communicator,Internet Safety,Presentations,Privacy,Social Networking,Uncategorized Tags : 

I had the pleasure of presenting the following presentation to the Rochester Regional Library Council on Oct. 25th. It contains general Internet and computer safety tips and is slightly modified from a session we provide to faculty and staff at RIT.

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