With the ever-increasing use of social networking sites, everyone needs to understand and recognize all the risks.
Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and many others are software applications that connect people and information in interactive ways. While social networking sites can be useful and fun, they can provide others — such as terrorists, spies, predators and criminals — with critical information that can harm you or your family members.
Practicing operational security will help you to recognize critical information and protect it.
Social networking sites depend on connections and communications, so they encourage users to provide certain amounts of personal information. When deciding on how much information to reveal, people may not exercise the same amount of caution as they would when meeting someone in person. Because of the lack of physical interaction, the Internet provides a sense of ambiguity, which provides a false sense of security.
Tailor the information and photos you’re sharing with your friends online, because hundreds, even thousands, of others may see them. Review the site’s privacy settings, and learn how to control the content you share with others. The default settings for some sites may allow anyone to see your profile and personal information.
A site may often alter privacy settings without notifying users. Check your privacy settings regularly, and go through each setting one at a time. Keep yourself informed of privacy boundaries.
Children are especially susceptible to the threats that social networking sites present because of their natural characteristics — innocence, curiosity, a desire for independence and fear of punishment. Normal safeguards and security practices may not be sufficient.
Online predators present significant threat to children. Because the nature of the Internet is so anonymous, it is easy for people to misrepresent themselves and manipulate or trick other users.
By taking some simple steps, you can dramatically reduce the threats. Teach your child about Internet safety, be aware of their online habits, and guide them to appropriate sites in order to ensure that your child becomes a safe and responsible user.
For more information on monitoring a child’s computer access, visit www.cyberangels.org. For more information on preventing a cyber attack, or to report one, log onto www.us-cert.gov.
Editor’s Note: Information for this article was produced by the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team.