The Risks of Social Networks

amigos redes socialesMany people and companies are not aware of what they should or should not publish in social network profiles. All the information published in these sites (Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Badoo, My Space, HI5, etc.), becomes public and makes us vulnerable to unscrupulous subjects who use these means to commit crimes.

Criminals have become increasingly interested in social networks as they are a great source of personal information due to users’ carelessness.

Among the most common consequences of misusing social networks are: kidnappings, extortion, phishing, fraud, people trafficking, pedophilia, loss of privacy, loss of reputation, loss of jobs, defamation, and others.

With this article, G4S Venezuela looks to promote a few recommendations to prudently use social networks in order to reduce the possible risks of having criminals gain access to personal information.

Some recommendations:

  • Do not upload pictures involving relatives, your home, vehicles or other assets that may reveal your social status.
  • Do not display your geographic location or moves, and make sure you know who your followers and people you follow are.
  • Inform your contacts (relatives and friends) about the risks they are exposed to as they could upload pictures or mention places or routines that put your security and theirs at risk.
  • Check the privacy policies of your social network of preference.
  • Set limitations to access information in your profile on the settings menu, accept only your friends.
  • People who are prone to being kidnapped due to their social status should only share minimum information in social networks.
  • Be cautious with malicious applications sent by email pretending to come from a social network. These applications could install malware in your computer allowing them to steal personal information (passwords, account numbers, credit card numbers, etc.).
  • Beware of phishing, a computer fraud that looks to acquire your network access information to steal your identity. In this criminal activity, you provide the information yourself.
  • Avoid using corporate email addresses in social networks, use only personal email addresses.
  • If an employee manages one of the company’s social network accounts and leaves his job, change all passwords so this person is unable to access the account.
  • Deactivate the geographic locator so you can not be located when using your cell phone.
  • Choose robust, difficult to guess but easy to remember passwords. Use alpha-numerical passwords alternating upper and lower case letters.
  • Avoid accessing social networks from public places such as cyber cafes, lobbies or common areas in hotels.

Many social networks have significantly improved their safety, but if someone uses your identity without authorization, you might need to open a new account. The first thing sites ask you to report your case is to formulate it from an original account. If you don’t have an account, because it was stolen, you will not be able to make the report and if you open a new account, the site will recognize it as new and won’t authorize it.

At first, Facebook didn’t care about the number of friends a user could have but now, if friends are added massively and indiscriminately, the site applies penalties and issues three warnings: the first one penalizing the account for one week, the second one for 30 days and the third one to suspend the account. This is to prevent junk mail or spam.

Social networks are good for many things, but not exactly for keeping anonymity. If a person has a twitter or Facebook account, it’s enough to Google their names to find all the information available in the web. Many companies are constantly monitoring the activity of these social networks, mainly with commercial purposes.

According to specialists, Venezuelan users’ safety culture is deficient, and there aren’t any effective information campaigns to warn users about the risks they are exposed to, and people are only careful after they’ve been victims of a crime. In Venezuela, people can denounce computer frauds and crimes at the CICPC Computer Crime Division.

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