Social Networking Safety
Social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, and Google Buzz, have had a profound impact on our culture and those around the world. Many claim that a global culture is being created through social networking. There are many benefits to using social networking sites. Family members can connect and stay up to date with each other, friends can reconnect after years apart, and professionals can network to explore opportunities and improve their skills.Although social networking sites have many advantages, their popularity drives criminals to seek new prey. You would be ill-advised to avoid social network because of the “dangers” involved. That’s similar to staying locked up in your house in fear of criminals that may wander the streets. Criminals do exist on the web and the wander the virtual streets of the internet seeking easy targets. Door-to-door scams, which have plagued senior citizens and others for decades also exists in a similar manner online. The key to not being one of the victims is to put the proper protections in place and use some basic, common sense. Remember, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Social networking sites allow you to provide information about yourself (background, career, schooling, interests, pictures, etc.). It also allows you to connect with others and see their information, too. You can also be connected with new people who share similar interests as you. Following some basic principles will help keep you safe. Avoid posting personal information. Don’t allow people to see your home address, phone number, full date of birth, etc. These small bits of information make it easy for expert scam artist to steal your identity. Also, don’t post comments on your “wall” that indicates your absence from your homes. This alerts people that your has is vacant and is an easy get away. Keeps your post limited to ideas, comments, and information you are comfortable with everyone viewing. Don’t talk to strangers. We were all taught this growing up, but it’s still a good lesson, even online. Be very cautious when getting “friend requests” from people you don’t know. Check out their profile to determine whether or not they are a good fit to be on your friends list. Be a skeptic! My mother used to tell me, “Believe nothing that you hear and only half of what you see.” People on social networking sites may posts misleading information and mask their identity. Take the time to authenticate information if something just doesn’t feel right or is too good to be true. Use strong passwords. Make sure your password is complex and includes at least 6 characters (preferably more) and contains a combination of special characters, upper and lower case letters, and numbers. A good example of a strong password is $trangeTh1ng$. Notice how the “S” is replaced with a “$” and the “I” is replaced with a “1”. This keeps sophisticated hacker programs from being able to crack your password. Configure Privacy Settings. This is one of the most important pieces of advice. All reputable social networking sites will have easy to find privacy settings that you can set on your account. By default, they might be set to allow everyone to see all of your information so it is important to configure these to allow only your “friends” to see certain information. Keeping your profile and information private is a very important part of protecting your identity. Social networking is a powerful tool that allows us to connect with friends, family, and colleagues around the globe. We are no longer limited by distance to be involved with communities that we elect to be a part of. Rather than letting a few bad apples spoil the experience, taking these simple, yet effective precautions will allow you to enjoy your online experience while know your are keeping yourself and your identity safe. Andy Craig, Director of Information Technology, Maple Knoll Communities, Inc.