How to Be Safe on Social Networking Sites

Would you tell a complete stranger all about your family, work, love life, hobbies, and interests? And give them some personal photos to look at, too? Most people approached on the street would probably answer ‘no’ to the above questions. But on the Internet, that’s exactly what millions of us are doing on the hugely popular social networking sites and chat rooms. Online social networks are fun and hip, but they also present a major security concern for Internet users.

Today your online well being has a direct impact on the rest of your life. So enjoy the social networking sites while also keeping security in mind. That way you are protecting your computer, money, and reputation, as well as your family and friends.


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    Don’t reveal too much: Each website provides different levels of privacy settings to control access to your profile page and your interaction with others. Identity theft is a major industry on the Internet and information extracted from social networking sites is used by criminals to spam e-mails and for targeted attacks on specific individuals and companies, using sophisticated social engineering techniques.
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    Beware of spam messages: It could be an e-mail pretending to be from someone you know, addressing you by your first name and mentioning the names of your children. It does not look like a spam message and it can trick you into revealing even more sensitive information. Similar methods are also used to gain financial information from businesses.
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    Educate yourself: As social networking sites and chat rooms are especially attractive to children and teenagers, it is essential that parents educate them about safe online behavior and keep tabs on what they are doing online.
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    Maintain a good reputation: It’s worth remembering that whatever you post on your profile page, or other community forum, remains in the public sphere long after you log out of the web site. This includes the crazy stuff and wild photos that you posted on Facebook but decided to delete ten minutes later because it suddenly seemed like a bad idea. The problem is that you can’t really retract it. Once it’s out there on the Web, you have little control over who copies the material, where it is used and how widely it gets distributed.


  • The best way to guard against such threats is to install software which updates your computer’s defenses automatically and makes sure you won’t be the one spreading worms among your network of friends. It’s also important to update your web browser, so remember to click on the security updates for Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, or any other browser you are using. This helps to keep your computer patched up against the viruses.
  • Bebo provides an excellent summary of the security issues involving social networking sites for both parents and children at Another recommended site for parents is


  • Social networking sites are also used by predators and pedophiles searching for possible victims. It’s easy for anyone to adopt false identities on the Web, so you should maintain a healthy skepticism over what you see and hear on social networking sites. The bright young student you are conversing with could always be a middle-aged fraud. If you want to meet a person who you have befriended online, always do it in a public place, preferably accompanied by someone.
  • Many online social networks encourage users to import content like video clips and also accept third party add-on applications. This can be exploited by virus writers as a way of getting malicious code into the networks, such as the worm which spread rapidly on Orkut’s web site last year, infecting an estimated 655,000 users in Brazil.

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Categories: Internet Security | Social Networking