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Social Networking Safety Tips
By: wubayou
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    It could be argued that social networking is the hottest sector in the online world. Everywhere you look the presence of sites such as Facebook and Twitter is highly evident, and youíll probably hear a mention of the words Facebook or Twitter quite often. While social networking sites are extremely valuable when it comes to keeping in touch with friends, making new friends, creating business contacts, and more, several pitfalls come along with their usage.

    Hackers and spammers have leveraged social networkingís popularity to their advantage, and that doesnít even begin to describe the problems concerning privacy.  To help keep you safe in your social networking experiences, this article will provide some safety tips to protect your privacy and keep hackers and spammers at bay.  These tips are important now more than ever as scams penetrate social networks with increasing frequency.

    Exercise Password Protection

    You want to make sure your password is something that nobody else would be able to guess.  It should be a combination of upper-case and lower-case letters, numbers, and characters. 

    Now, if you are like most humans, you could forget your password at some point.  The security questions you enter will help you regain it, but since social networking profiles offer so much information, others could use these security questions and answers to steal your password and gain access to your account.  To avoid this problem, use security questions that are as obscure as possible.

    Watch What You Share

    Social networking is obviously meant to be an avenue for sharing information and media with others, but what you share can backfire if you are not careful.  If you post a photo, others can see it, save it, and use it against you in the future.  With that being said, avoid posting any content, status updates, etc. that could create problems.  Once itís on the internet, it can be saved forever, so deleting it later might not be enough.

    Watching who you share your content with is extremely important as well.  Your best bet is to set your profile to private, or in the case of Twitter, locking your Tweets so that only accepted friends can view what you post.  Leaving your profile public will let strangers get a glimpse into your private life that you may not want them to see.  When it comes to social networking, privacy is definitely the best policy. 

    Luckily, you arenít constrained completely when it comes to adjusting privacy settings, at least with Facebook.  You can customize how you share pretty much everything, including photos, videos, past posts, status updates, and more.  You can control who sees your content, block certain people, and the list goes on.  All of this can be maintained via your Facebook privacy settings located in the top right hand corner of your profile.  Be thorough when you go through the settings to ensure your privacy is set to a level that is adequate.

    Avoid Friend Requests from People You Donít Know

    Itís always great to receive a friend request from a person you have not spoken to in a long time.  After all, thatís one of the main advantages behind social networking, as it allows you to find lost connections.  On the other hand, friend requests from people you do not know can become problematic. 

    You are probably more likely to receive unknown friend requests if you are a female, but this certainly applies to males as well.  An unknown person could just want to get to know you or see your content, or they might have more malicious intent in mind.  Accepting unknown friend requests can severely affect your privacy, as you never know who is out there on the Web.  For this reason, only accept requests from people you know.  At the very least, they should be friends of one of your friends so you can have some peace of mind.  Unknown profiles can sometimes be phony accounts used by spammers as well, so accepting them might simply become an annoyance.

    Avoid Access in Public Places

    You may be tempted to access your profile at an internet cafť, the library, or at work, but doing so could lead to trouble.  The public computer you are using may be infected, or the public Wi-Fi network you are on may have lurkers waiting to steal your data or hijack your session.  Itís best to wait until you are on a secured network on your personal computer or smartphone to access your profile.  This advice holds true for any other personal accounts you have, such as banking, email, etc.

    Do Not Click on Suspicious Links

    Cybercriminals are crafty and have used social engineering to trick social networking users into clicking malicious links.  These links often lead to sites hosting malware, phishing schemes that try to steal personal information, and other undesirable things. 

    If you see posts, private messages, tweets, and the like that try to entice you to click a link, donít do it.  This is obvious when the source is unknown, but you must also do it if the content comes from a friend.  Why?  Many times hackers will compromise accounts, take them over, and use them to distribute scams over the social network.  If you feel the link is suspicious, message your friend and ask them if they personally sent it to you.  If they didnít, their account was compromised and is basically being used as a spam distribution center.

    Be Careful of Apps

    Apps are a fun way to increase a social networking siteís appeal.  Whether s games, entertainment, or informational apps, they do add a lot of value.  One problem with apps, however, is that some try to access too much of your personal information.  They often do this to provide a more personalized experience, but you have to be careful when granting permission for them to access certain data.

    There are plenty of well-known and legitimate apps that users love, but there are also third-party apps that are nothing more than fronts for cybercriminals to steal your information.  When installing an app, pay attention to the information that it will access.  If it wants to know too much, avoid the installation to play it safe.

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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