These social networking giants not only attracted the millions of regular people to connect to their sites, but these huge numbers have attracted cyber-predators as well. As a result, security and privacy related stories and issues have plagued these social network leaders. Frequently, they were criticized for lack of the lack of security and user information privacy control.
News about accounts of celebrities were hacked and hijacked—including the account of one of the executives of these sites. A more disturbing story came out about a girl who was befriended by a sex offender through one of the social networking sites. Later the girl, reportedly, met this seemingly friendly character in person and later was found dead … after she was sexually abused. Though this story is not verified, the way people post and share personal information through the social networking media, it is very likely that this story could happen anytime.
In response to these issues, both Twitter and Facebook have tightened up their securities and anti-hacking anti-malware measures. Facebook, recently have also changed their user information privacy control, giving more control to the users with regards to the information they are willing to share to applications and other websites that they link to their Facebook account.
Despite these moves by the social network providers however, users unknowingly exposes themselves to some of the risks in social networking.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
Hacking – one of the most common risks not only in social networking but in almost all online accounts. This type of attack may be in the form of modification of personal info or even access one’s online bank account.
Account Hijacking – Once accessed, an account may be used to send malicious messages and most often these are offensive messages. Worse is, those who receive these messages may think it was actually sent by the real owner of the account.
Online Scams – Online scams comes in many forms these days. Some are merely lying out there waiting for unsuspecting victims. Due to available personal information on the web, targeted scams are now prevalent. Cyber predators choose their victims carefully, gathering as much information about a person. Commonly targeted victims are people who are away from their family and/or the family of such person.
An example of this type of scam is someone would contact the wife of a person working abroad and pretend that he works with the husband. The caller would come up with a story like the husband is in jail or in a hospital and needs a certain amount of money and needs to be sent immediately. They will be able to say details about a person and or even the family to verify that he knows the husband. Of course the information could have been taken from the social networking sites directly or indirectly.
After the wife sends the money, they would either disappear or try to get more money.
Risks in Eyeball– Eyeballing or meeting a cyber friend in person is just like meeting with a text-mate or, back in the days of pre-Internet, a pen-pal and/or phone-pal.
Meeting a cyber-friend or a chat mate however still be risky specially to the females. A cyber-predator can easily post fake information and even pictures on a social networking site and can pretend to very friendly. Once you meet them in person however, it could be too late to realize how un-friendly they really are.
Another risk in eyeballing. A news report came out about a year ago about a person who met with two of his chat mates in an expensive restaurant. Thinking that the two will be paying for what they have eaten. In the end he was left alone in the restaurant with the bill which he cannot afford and two got out of the restaurant with a take-out bag charged to their bill.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES?
These cyber-crimes however, are in part made possible by the users themselves. Here are some of the common practices that make these cyber-crimes possible.
One Password For All. This is also called ‘password sloth’. Using a single password for all online accounts seems convenient for most users, which is a mistake that puts not just one account but all the user’s accounts at risks. Passwords may be discovered, accidentally or through intentional hacking. Once a password is discovered, the cyber-predators will try to open other accounts in other servers with that password.
Birthday as passwords. This is very convenient to all but sad to say this is still the biggest and one of the most common mistakes that is still being practiced. Birthdays is one of the password that cyber predators will try to enter to hack an account.
TOO MUCH PERSONAL DETAILS
Posting personal information is good, but posting too much personal details is just one way of inviting these cyber-predators. This will give them enough information to think of a scheme to scam you or your family or if you are an attractive female, you might be attracting a sexual offender and he could find a way to get to you.
USING PUBLIC COMPUTERS.
Using public computers like in the Internet Cafés may expose your account to those ‘hijackers-out-of-opportunity’. Especially if these establishments are using an automated internet café program, which closes the computer when the time limit is reached. This will leave your account online. Unless you restart the computer it will not be logged out and you will never know what the next person will do with your account.
Knowing these risks and their possible causes is just the first step to protect you from these cyber-crimes.
Safer Computing tip(s).