Ten years ago, the notion that someone may be able to reconnect with a high school friend 30 years post-graduation, obtain a new job from posting their resume on a website, or even speaking directly to your favorite celebrity via 160 character messages, was nothing short of preposterous. Today, it is hard to imagine our lives without Facebook®, Twitter®, LinkedIn®, Foursquare® and the rest of the immensely popular social networking websites that have changed social interaction.
Without social networking wesbites, how else would we vent our frustration to the world while waiting in line at the DMV? How would we show all of our friends the amazing time we had on our two-week cruise to the Amalfi Coast? And, how on earth could we sit through an entire red light (not that we admit to using mobile devices while driving)? Social networking sites have become nothing less than an additional appendage to people in today’s society, and not to mention a national, and even global, common denominator. However, like any great societal advancement, use of these websites have triggered further exploration and invention, and among them are a set of unofficial rules to guiding our actions to not only optimize our use, but also to protect ourselves and loved ones from online threats.
Between hackers, thieves, virus writers, and simply our own accidental stupidity, the amount and severity of threat associated with social network conduct is infinite. In order to raise awareness about these very serious threats, as well as help social media users avoid them, Microsoft® published an article outlining several practical and simple tips about social networking safety. Three of these worthwhile tips include
- Know what you’ve posted about yourself and think like a hacker. A popular way that hackers are able to obtain financial information or access to your accounts is by clicking the “Forgot your password?” link on the login page. In order to break into your account, hackers will search for information that pertains to your security questions, including birthday, home town, high school mother’s maiden name, etc. If possible, make up your own password questions to deter the hackers.
- Be selective about who you accept as a friend on a social network. An all too common practice for identity thieves is to create fake profiles in order to obtain personal information from people via their social networking accounts. It should serve as a red flag if you do not recognize the name or face of the person requesting to add, follow, or connect with you.
- Assume that everything you put on a social networking site is permanent. Regardless of how invincible you may feel from your privacy settings, if you post something online it could easily come back to haunt you. Even if you completely delete your social networking site account, pictures or text can be saved by virtually anyone on the Internet. Not only can this put your financial and family life at risk by revealing too much, but it can be especially damaging when it comes to your professional life and career.
These tips may seem somewhat banal or trite to the most savvy social networking/media consumer, but even the most experienced of users can easily be victimized by online threats or irrevocably damage their personal reputation due to seemingly innocuous content posted online.. By following tips such as these, as well as the rest of the ones suggested by Microsoft, a safer (but still entertaining) social networking experience can be achieved.