Keep Your Family Safe on Social Networks
Social networking sites can offer many benefits: You can create and maintain friendships, develop business connections, share photos and information, and connect and communicate with others with similar interests.
Due to their nature, social networking sites encourage you to provide personal information – and it’s common for individuals to reveal more information about themselves online than they would when meeting someone in person. This can be because being online seems more anonymous, or the lack of face-to-face contact gives a false feeling of security. It can also be because users post for their friends, forgetting that others may see it.
It is important to use caution when deciding how much personal information to share online. Negative implications of sharing too much range from looking bad to a boss or potential employer during a job search, to malicious attacks by people who use personal information to take advantage of you or your family.
Attackers may also use social networking sites – especially those that offer applications developed by third parties – to distribute malicious code that can infect your computer or share your information without your knowledge.
Children are especially susceptible to online threats like these. You can minimize the risk to your children by teaching them about internet safety, being aware of their online habits, and guiding them to appropriate sites.
To further keep your family safe on social networking sites, follow these tips from the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team:
- Limit the amount of personal information you post – Do not post information that would make you vulnerable, such as your address or information about your schedule or routine. If your connections 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 connections.
- Remember that the Internet is a public resource – Only post information you are comfortable with anyone seeing. This includes information and photos in your profile and in blogs and other forums. Also, once you post information online, you can’t retract it. Even if you remove the information from a site, saved or cached versions may still exist on other people’s machines.
- 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 these sites. 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 online. 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, and try to verify the authenticity of any information before taking any action.
- Evaluate your settings – Take advantage of a site’s privacy settings. The default settings for some sites may allow anyone to see your profile, but you can customize your settings to restrict access to only certain people. There is still a risk that private information could be exposed despite these restrictions, so don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want the public to see. Sites may change their options periodically, so review your security and privacy settings regularly to make sure that your choices are still appropriate.
- Be wary of third-party applications – Third-party applications may provide entertainment or functionality, but use caution when deciding which applications to enable. Avoid applications that seem suspicious, and modify your settings to limit the amount of information the applications can access.
- Use strong passwords – Protect your account with 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.
- Check privacy policies – Some sites may share information such as email addresses or user preferences with other companies. This may lead to an increase in spam. Also, try to locate 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.
- Keep software, particularly your web browser, up to date – Install software updates so that attackers cannot take advantage of known problems or vulnerabilities. Many operating systems offer automatic updates. If this option is available, you should enable it.
- Use and maintain anti-virus software – 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.
Find more tips on staying safe online at www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips/ST06-003.