Social networking is built on trust and privacy control. Designed for human interaction, social media sites allow you to directly interface with others, share certain aspects of your daily life, and form even intimate relationships with others.
Cybercriminals have learned to abuse the element of trust and lack of privacy that social media evoke to prey on you, as shown in this infographic. They take advantage of your relationships to get you to click malicious links or download malware. Facebook, for instance, blocks 200 million malicious actions like linking to malware every day.
Cybercriminals looking to take advantage of a social network’s considerable user base have made Facebook and Twitter a nest of socially engineered attacks.
- Socially engineered attacks lure you with fraudulent news and promotions, as well as fake themes and apps
- Personalized messages spoofing your friends or popular celebrities tempt you into clicking malicious links
- Fake users ask you to add them to your contact list
- Fake apps may push your account to send out Tweets that contain shortened links, which lead to system infection
- Besides being vulnerable to survey scams and system infection, your personal information may also be stolen and used for malicious purposes
- Your own Facebook account may perform unauthorized actions like posting automated updates and liking pages
- If your financial and other accounts have the same password as your social networks, they may also be compromised
- You may inadvertently find yourself spamming Tweets that spread threats, infecting your friends’ systems with malware too
Keep two things in mind when browsing social networking sites—what you see and what you share.
Ask yourself if a link is really worth clicking. If curiosity gets the better of you, try looking for more reliable and trustworthy sources.
When posting updates, always ask yourself, “Is the information I’m about to share really worth sharing? Will I be okay if future employers, family members, and friends see it? Will I mind if total strangers see it?” If any of the questions evokes a “No,” you may want to rethink your update.
Research firm Javelin Strategy & Research examined the way people behave in popular social networking sites. It found that those with public profiles were more than likely to share specific personal details like:
- Birthday (68%)
- High school (63%)
- Phone number (18%)
- Pet’s name (12%)
Note that prospective employers rely on these details to verify future employees’ identities, so don’t let them fall into the wrong hands.
Tips for safe socializing
- Be wary of clicking shortened links from unknown accounts. Always try and verify shortened links before you actually click them. Twitter’s web client allows you to preview shortened links by hovering your cursor over them.
- Only befriend or follow people you’ve met in real life or whose accounts you’ve verified. Never follow anyone you may not know in real life or have no mutual friends with. If you must follow celebrities or public identities, see if their accounts have first been verified by the social networks they’re in.
- Read the security and privacy settings of the site you are signing up for. Social networking sites are aware of the threats that cybercriminals spread on their networks. Most have built-in security features to help combat threats. Explore these fully and enable them as soon as you can.
- Use hard-to-guess passwords. Use phrases of more than three words. They’re much easier to remember than complicated words formed using a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.
- Privacy is a valuable commodity; don’t waste it. If you’re worried about anything on your personal pages ending up in strangers’ hands, you can set your profile to “Private” so that only your trusted contacts can see it. Better yet, Trend Micro™ Security includes the Privacy Scanner for Facebook that identifies specific settings that may leave your personal information vulnerable.
- Group your contacts. This helps limit what each group of contacts sees on your personal pages.