5 Tips For Staying Safe In Social Networks

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Posted by: Barracuda Labs

In case you haven’t noticed, social networking sites are taking over the Internet. They receive the most traffic; they generate the most media attention, and let’s face it: they’re where all the cool kids are hanging out. Unfortunately, as these sites become more and more popular, they also become more and more attractive as targets for attackers.

So what can you do to protect yourself from attackers? If you’re incredibly paranoid, you can just boycott all social networking sites (that’s what the Marines do). Or if that’s a little too extreme, you can always follow these five simple guidelines for protecting yourself in these environments:

1.) Don’t use “password” as your password. I know it’s easy to remember, but it’s also incredibly easy to guess. Instead, use a strong password with at least 8 characters that consists of numbers, mixed case letters, and special characters. Also, be sure to use a hard-to-guess password reset question (i.e., don’t end up like Sarah Palin’s Yahoo! account).

2.) Don’t use the same password at multiple sites. I realize this is somewhat inconvenient, but consider the alternative. If you use the same password at every site, what happens when one of your accounts is compromised? You guessed it: all of your accounts are compromised! Scary, right?! Now, go change your passwords!!!

3.) Don’t give your username and password to untrusted sites. Some legitimate sites will ask for your username and password (e.g., sites that support Facebook Connect), but you should always verify the trustworthiness of a site before you enter your credentials. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and avoid becoming yet another phishing victim.

4.) Don’t click on that! Never click on links from unknown users because they can lead you to any number of malicious destinations. Even if you trust the user, use caution because you never know when one of your friends has been compromised (not everyone reads this blog 😛 ). Also, be extremely careful with shortened URLs because you have no idea where they will lead you. To be on the safe side, use an unshortener (e.g., Untiny, Unshorten, etc.) to determine a shortened URL’s final destination.

5.) Verify the trustworthiness of people by using reputation systems such as Purewire Trust and TweetGrade. Social networking sites are like the Wild Wild West of the Internet, but reputation systems aim to establish a sense of order to these sites so that users can make informed decisions in these environments. Before interacting with unknown individuals in a social networking site, you should check their reputations in one of these systems to safeguard yourself from malicious activity.

If all else fails, just remember to use common sense! When a smoking hot stranger sends you a friend request or a link, just ignore it and keep on moving.

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