Protecting Yourself on Facebook: Some useful tips to online safety

By Shan Balasuriya Posted Date: 2013-09-25

Facebook is the largest social networking site today and has over half a billion users all sharing their personal information (like messages, interests, photos and videos). Being a communication channel with so much online data flow, it is prone to an assortment of cyber-attacks. Ever since Facebook’s boom in popularity and increase in users, there have been a number of instances where people have lost money or even their careers as result of bad online security and privacy. Like with any online communication channel, security is always an issue and the possibility of personal information being exploited is present. The key to protecting your self is knowing how you can fall victim to these malicious attacks and understanding the security features available to you. Some possible attacks and useful tips to protecting yourself are outlined below. Privacy and Security are always a major concern with regard to all online services.

  • Facebook Security Settings
    The first and one of the most important steps to take is to understand the facebook security settings properly and learn to how to use them. The Majority of facebook users do not update their security settings and use facebook with the default security settings. If you are using the default privacy settings you’re likely to be sharing all your information with everyone on facebook.   Your personal information in the wrong hands can have major repercussions – there are many people who have ended up losing their professional reputations, careers even family as a result of bad social networking.  It is important to remember that you are the person who decides what you post, to whom and how it is posted online and ultimately to an extent, protecting yourself comes down to you.

    How to update your default settings: Access your privacy settings by clicking ‘Account’ in the top-right corner of your facebook page, then select ‘Privacy Settings’ 
  • Who's really your friend?
    As important as it is to update your default privacy settings it’s important to regularly check and update your list of friends. Remember that the most private setting on facebook is to share your media with ‘only friends’ – the question you should be asking yourself next is who your friends on facebook are?

    Don’t ever accept friend requests from people you don’t know or even fictional characters, you never know who is managing those profiles. Just because ‘Homer Simpson’ adds you, it doesn’t mean you have to be his friend. Make sure that you only add people you know and trust as friends on facebook.
  • Think before you type
    Another very important rule to follow when posting online is to read your post to make sure that you don’t mind other people seeing this. When posting on social networking sites you should remember that your post could be exposed and be seen by everyone with a computer and a screen. However secure your privacy settings are there is always vulnerability for information on the internet and if you don’t want your post to ever be seen by anyone else, then simply don’t post it. You wouldn’t want something posted today, coming back to bite you a few years later.
  • Watch out for those apps!
    Facebook since integrating apps with their system, now has hundreds of third party applications, some of these applications may be useful or entertaining whereas others can be malicious. When trying to use an application for the first time, you are prompted to grant permissions in order to be able to use the app. This means that the developers of the app are given access to your data, which includes your likes, your interests and even your friends.

    Some of these apps can post on your behalf to facebook and can result in spam, not only on your profile but your friends too. Sometimes these apps can be gateways that in-turn lead you to a download link to install malicious software on your computer (this could be in the form of a browser plug-in or even a regular software). Such software can be used to record keystrokes to obtain passwords or credit card information, or even to remotely take control of your computer.  In addition to spam and malicious software, these apps can also be used to collect valuable information about you that can be used to create a marketing profile. 

    It is very important to only use applications from sources you know and trust as well as to regularly check and update the apps that have been granted permissions.

    How to check added apps: Scroll to the bottom of the facebook privacy settings page and find the link for ‘Apps’ in the left side navigation area, when the link is followed here you can see a list of the apps you use, and change permissions if necessary or even remove the app completely.
The four points above covers some basic tips to follow to ensure a secure foundation when using facebook. If the simple steps above are followed it can significantly reduce your social networking security vulnerabilities, sparing you unnecessary embarrassment and even save your career.

Next week on the Web Choice Online blog we will discuss some of the most common and notorious security threats on facebook and how to protect yourself from these attacks

 

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