In January of this year the security firm Sophos reported that 40% of social network users had encountered malicious attacks. Customized third-party applications used by sites such as Facebook pose additional privacy concerns. Some of these applications can steal your account credentials, post infected links to user walls, grant permissions that allow accelerated access to your profile, share and spam contacts and cause scams to go viral.
Malicious people are drawn to social networks due to easy access and the amount of personal data available to them. The more information that you place on these sites along with weak privacy settings has the potential to allow targeted social engineering attacks.
Cybercriminals hold a heightened level of interest for sites such as Facebook where default privacy settings promote personal information sharing and are often not altered by users.
Recently, industry watch groups, like the EFF and Consumer Reports, as well as the U.S. government, have articulated a host of real-world concerns. For example, posting personal information (including birthdates, street addresses, whether you are home or away), can expose a user to crime of either the cyber- or real-world variety. In addition, the privacy settings of users and users’ Facebook friends can expose users to harassment, malware, spyware, identity theft, viruses and scams. [Source]
US-CERT suggests ten steps that you can take to protect yourself on social networks:
- Limit the amount of personal information you post
- Remember that the internet is a public resource
- Be wary of strangers
- Be skeptical – Don’t believe everything you read online.
- Evaluate your settings – don’t stick with the defaults!
- Be wary of third-party applications
- Use strong passwords
- Check privacy policies
- Keep software, particularly your web browser, up to date
- Use and maintain anti-virus software
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