Most likely you are part of one or more social media networks. The most common social media services are Facebook, Linkedin, Myspace, Bebo, Friendster, etc. What many users don’t realize is social media information could be leveraged as a source for your personal information. It’s extremely important to pay attention to what information you provide on public websites such as social media services and utilizing available security features to limit access to that data.
Facebook publicly shows they have more than 750 million active users with an average of 130 friends per user. 50% of active Facebook users log on daily and people in general spend over 700 billion minutes per month browsing Facebook. This makes Facebook’s database a very desirable target for information about people. Listing “Going on vacation for two weeks” may be nice for friends to know however criminals could capitalize on being informed your home is vacant. Uploading obscene pictures such as being intoxicated could impact a future job during a recruiters background check. Once data is submitted to Internet, its VERY hard to completely remove it.
Researchers at the 2011 Defcon conference showcased an application based on leveraging social media and facial recognition software to capture sensitive information about unknown people. By scanning a photo of random people, the researchers were able to determine people’s names, home address, SS#, employment information, health records, as well as similar data for significant others and family members. Basically the application could obtain details about people from pictures that could be used to steal digital identities for criminal purposes.
The best defense against this type of threat is monitoring how you use social media websites. Always ask yourself before you post something “could somebody use this picture or information in a negative way?”
Another defense is limiting access to data you post online such as leveraging imbedded security features from social media services. Here are some tips for securing your Facebook account. Similar features and concepts should be used for other social media websites.
- Create friend categories and apply policy. An example is restricting some access from work friends that is available for family members.
- Limit the ability for friends to “Check you into places”. Personally I’m not a fan of this feature but at the very least make sure you control when you are checked in. Imagine a friend jokingly checking you into an adult club which displays on all your public social websites. Also limit specific friend categories from seeing where you check in.
- Set your contact information as private
- Limit what information is provided to applications. Studies show many are not secure.
- Enable Facebook security. Turn on secure browsing (HTTPS) and email and/or texting alerts when a new device logs into your account.
- Remove yourself from search results if you are tired of high school people you can’t remember trying to reconnect with you. It’s under privacy settings.
- Remove yourself from public search via permitting sites like Google to see your social media data. This is found under Facebook privacy settings. Also turnoff instant personalization. Its under settings
- Disable friends from tagging you. It’s under customized settings. You don’t want a humiliating picture of someone else tagged as you.