If you’re perusing this blog post, you’re probably part of the millions of Americans who consider social networking a part of modern business as well as home life. Yet a major problem with social networking is giving away too much personal information.
It’s only natural, though. After all, the social networking environment is a brand new world to many, and one in which it’s easy to forget to exercise the same caution you do in everyday real life.
So while it’s great to reconnect with former classmates, share job opportunities, and promote your business via various social networking outlets, it’s important to consider exactly just what private information you’re happy to place in the public domain and what information you’re not.
Here are some tips and hints to stay safe while socially networking:
Manage your personal information carefully. Security experts call it ‘tombstone data’ and by this they mean information such as your name, date and place of birth, marital status, and contact details. Even with just a few of these details, an identity thief can collect enough information to apply for a loan in your name.
Protect your identity. Consider setting up a free email specifically for social networking sites rather than your work or personal email. Take care when choosing a screen name. Don’t use your real name, email address or any other easily identifiable information.
Maximize your privacy settings. Not just your passwords — don’t use the same password for everything — but also on the social networking sites themselves. For example, on Facebook make yourself unsearchable and keep your friendships private. Exposing your friends can expose you too.
Watch out for cookies. Cookies are small files that websites use to store information about you between sessions. Although often used innocuously for e-marketing, they can be used to build up a profile of your interests and activities. Set your browser to warn you when a cookie is installed or alternatively use computer software to block them completely.
Install anti-Spyware. Spyware is software that sends information about what you’re doing on the Internet to a third party, usually to target you with pop up ads but occasionally for use as part of a wider fraudulent scam. Spyware most commonly gets onto computers during the download of screensavers, music and other applications but can be blocked by using anti-Spyware software.
Beware of public wireless sites. Sometimes the urge to check your Facebook page can be impossible to resist. Avoid accessing social media sites or sending personal or confidential information when using public wireless connections such as those in hotels and cafes. These connections are often not secure, so fellow users could potentially monitor your Internet usage from just a few feet away.
Keep a healthy dose of cynicism. If something seems odd or even too good to be true, it usually is. If you’ve experienced a security issue with a social media account, reset all you social media accounts, not just the one that was impacted.