While social networking sites like FacebookR are a great way for friends and family to stay in touch, the vast pool of data available also attracts cyber criminals. Cyber criminals are able to use data from social networks, collected publicly or through more malicious methods, to engage in identity theft and other cyber-crime. If you are a keen user of social networks, learn how to protect your data from cyber criminals.
Observe basic security precautions
Access to social network sites is controlled via a user name and password. Ensure that you choose a strong password, ideally made from a selection of numbers and characters that bears no resemblance to any of your actual personal data. You should never, for example, choose your child's name as your password. Make sure that you log out at the end of every session, and don't share your password with others. Change your password at least once a month, and don't use the same password across all networks.
Use the right privacy settings
Sites like Facebook allow you to customize the level of privacy on your account. You can choose to keep all your data and updates visible only to your friends, to the extent where non-members cannot even find you in a search. You can also choose to mark certain updates and information (e.g. photos) while other updates are made available publicly. Make sure that your privacy settings are in place, and test what your pages look like by accessing the site when you are not logged in. This is a simple way to spot any items that may not have the right privacy.
Don't share personal data
Your friends and family already have and know your personal details, so there's no need to display your home address or telephone number. On a personal network, there's probably no need to share details of your employer, either. Cyber criminals are easily able to fool people by linking certain data items and pretending to be something they are not. They could, for example, pretend to be acting on behalf of your employer and encourage you to click a link that contains a harmful virus.
Be wary about what you click
It's easy to be fooled on social networks, especially by links and sites that look very innocent. Cyber criminals will play on your sense of charity by encouraging you to click links that appear to donate money. These links rarely work in this way and instead install malware on your computer. Even if your friends have clicked the links and banners, don't be fooled. Encourage your friends not to do this, too. These scams often work because people are encouraged by what their friends do.
Keep an eye on children
Children are particularly susceptible to being fooled on social networks. Children rarely understand the importance of data security and confidentiality and will easily share useful data without realizing it. Cyber criminals can easily lure children with the appeal of games and free gifts, so it is important that you are able to supervise your children's activity on social networks. They may think you are cramping their style, but until they understand the risks of online activity, that may be a compromise that they have to make.