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Social Media and Social Networking  

Common Security Issues
How to Protect Yourself
Security FAQs and Incident Report Links for Popular Social Media/Networking Sites

More than ever, working professionals, teenagers, and younger children are taking advantage of the benefits of socializing and networking with friends and colleagues online. The communications and online “friending” are known as social networking, while the platforms to do so, such as Facebook and Twitter, are referred to as social media. These are beneficial tools that open up a broader realm of possibilities. But they can also be fraught with risks if you do not understand how to protect yourself and your children. Cybercriminals know these may be very effective means to reach you as an individual user or as an employee of a company or government agency they wish to target. Familiarize yourself with best practices for using these websites so that your friends, family, and coworkers can take full advantage of the benefits and understand where to go for help if and when you need it.


Common Security Issues

  • Impersonators and hijacked accounts: Users face the threat of impersonators who research long-lost high school or college friends, purport to have worked with you or at your employer at the same time and request a professional link to you, or hijack accounts outright to pose as someone they are not. Sometimes they do so to proliferate dangerous software, other times to entice you to provide money, and other times to elicit information about your employer that they may be targeting to steal intellectual property.
  • Malware: Using the aforementioned impersonation or even online ads in these sites are just a few ways in which online criminals can entice you to click and inadvertently download malicious software (malware) that can then steal your personal information.
  • Gathering personal information: While you may decide giving up personal information is worth the value you get from the applications you download or the groups that you join, be aware that not all groups or applications advise that they are collecting your personal information. Additionally, users can locate others in the immediate vicinity thanks to location-based services.
  • Short URLs: Often, short URLs lead to legitimate websites and are no cause for concern. But frequently they are used to lead users to malicious websites.
  • Fraudulent messages: As with similar fraudulent spam or “phishing” emails, criminals also use messages that purport to be from site owners themselves to entice you to click on a link to download malicious software. Examples include password reset messages from Facebook that come with an attachment which is a now common virus called “Koobface,” and a message to advertise a new conferencing service on Facebook with a link to sign up, which then takes the user to a malicious web page.
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How to Protect Yourself

Be cautious about all unexpected content, including questions, solicitations, hyperlinks, and applications.

  • Impersonations: If a “friend” or person in your network seems to be communicating oddly or purporting to be in need of money or other requests that are atypical, proceed with caution. Call them or use another means to communicate your concern and validate that the message is from the legitimate sender. 
  • Personal information: If you do not wish to share your information openly, do research on the developers or application sponsors of the apps that you download or the groups you are considering — before downloading or joining.
  • Malicious applications: People may assume that the social networking site owners are involved in creating the latest applications, and lose sight that the content is user generated. In fact, the vast majority of user-generated social networking content receives no review prior to being made available.
  • If you receive unsolicited messages from the site owner, do some research before clicking on any link in the message. Typically, the legitimate site owners will use their own website to inform you of a new service or other news, rather than sending you a message about it.
  • Encourage your friends, family, colleagues, and especially children to be wary of unfamiliar links because what impacts one "friend" can impact others in your circle.
  • Be certain you know who you are adding to your professional networks and be on guard against anyone who attempts to learn more about your colleagues, your company, or what you do. Be certain that you know the employee at your former or current company before linking with them in your professional network. If you are an employee of a highly targeted government agency or company, you can be pursued in seemingly nonthreatening ways and you may not even be aware you are being targeted.
  • With so much information readily available about you, exploiters can send you a flood of convincing solicitations and communications, a tactic known as “social engineering.”
  • Familiarize yourself with the security and privacy settings of social networking sites. Be certain you update the privacy settings on all of your sites to an acceptable level for what you choose to do online. Nobody can dictate a single set of settings for you, but do make use of the settings to control who can see and contact you. Control settings include:
    • Who sees your profile and your personal information, especially your location
    • Who can search for you and how you can be contacted
    • Your recent activities, which are visible on your friends' pages and your profile
    • What personal information is available to the applications that you use within the social networking site
  • If you have children interested in social networking, read McAfee’s e-guide, “ A Parent’s Guide to Social Networking Sites
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Security FAQs and Incident Report Links for Popular Social Media/Networking Sites

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