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Social Networking

Definition: "The interaction between a group of people who share acommon interest; Using social contacts to network; The use of Internet communities to network and communicate using shared interests, related skills, or geographical location between consumers and businesses."

Social networking site examples: Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Myspace, Google+

Social Networking stats: "The popularity of social media is undeniable – three of the world’s most popular brands online are social-media related (Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia) and the world now spends over 110 billion minutes on social networks and blog sites.This equates to 22 percent of all time online or one in every four and half minutes. For the first time ever, social network or blog sites are visited by three quarters of global consumers who go online, after the numbers of people visiting these sites increased by 24% over last year.The average visitor spends 66% more time on these sites than a year ago, almost 6 hours in April 2010 versus 3 hours, 31 minutes last year."

The problem

Social networking sites are a perfect ecosystem for cyber criminals to gather information about individuals and organizations, propagate scams, and spread malicious software. Cyber criminals use tactics called social engineering to garner trust from individuals and trick them into disclosing information or performing particular actions. Social networking sites have good uses but if you are not aware of the risks to security and privacy you could put yourself, and others in danger.


Use caution when you click links that you receive in messages from your friends on your social website. If you're not sure where the link goes or what it is about, you may want to find out before clicking. Viruses and phishing attacks are not only propogated through email but they now are showing up all over social networking sites. Don't be fooled by links that say "check out this photo of you...." or "you won't believe this....". These attacks pray on your trust relationship with your friends.

Know what you've posted about yourself. A common way that hackers break into financial or other accounts is by clicking the "Forgot your password?" link on the account login page. To break into your account, they search for the answers to your security questions, such as your birthday, home town, high school class, or mother's middle name. If the site allows, make up your own password questions, and don't draw them from material anyone could find with a quick search.

Assume that everything you put on a social networking site is permanent! Even if you can delete your account, anyone on the Internet can easily print photos or text or save images and videos to a computer. Some companies like Google "cache" Internet pages, meaning they download web pages and Internet content to their servers so anyone can access old "cached" content even after something has been removed.

Get familiar with social networking site security and privacy settings. Do not simply accept default security and privacy settings when you setup an account. Do not assume that the social networking site has your best security and privacy interests in mind. Did you know that on some sites your information could be shared with 3rd party companies? Did you know that your profile and information could be searchable by anyone on the internet if you don't purposefully restrict it? If your social networking site does not have adequate security and privacy controls, choose not to participate!