Avoiding Social Networking Scams
This post originally appeared in the San Jose Mercury News
More and more people are using social networking sites, including, sadly, criminals seeking to take advantage of the rest of us.
Threats on those sites include applications and quizzes, as well as malware, worms and viruses. But the main risk, says Trend Micro's Rick Ferguson, is information you post yourself that can jeopardize your privacy and security.
Ferguson says that "we have a tendency on social networks to share more information than we need to." While you may need to reveal which schools you went to and where you worked to connect with old school mates or colleagues, "you don't need to share your date of birth, phone number and address," Ferguson said.
The threats are not limited to Facebook or MySpace. Ferguson also warns users not to be lulled into a false sense of security when using professional networks like LinkedIn. "Because it's a professional networking site, people give it more credibility and think it's safer than other networks," he said, adding that you put yourself at risk by "posting your entire résumé and exposing your business connections."
Both Ferguson and Symantec safety education director Marian Merritt warn about online quizzes and applications that are popular on social networking sites.
"Every time you accept an application, you're giving some third-party developer access to information in your profile," Merritt said.
She warns that "quizzes are sometimes attached to fraudulent marketing companies." She said her own teenage daughter took an IQ quiz and had to put in her cell phone number to get her score.
"She didn't notice that the terms of service would sign her up for premium texting until the bill came." Fortunately, this particular teenage girl has one of the most cyber-security-conscious moms on the planet, who convinced the carrier to stop the charges.
Some quizzes and surveys reveal far too much information. I recently came across a third-party survey that asks users to reveal "60 Things You Didn't Know About Me" with such questions such as "What are you wearing?" "When was the last time you were drunk?" and "How often do you have sex?" With answers to questions like these on your profile, it doesn't take a sophisticated hacker to derive information that he shouldn't have access to.
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