Is Social Networking Safe?

The trend now is to be social. It’s all about social connections. Whether it be via Facebook, Twitter, Twellow, or MySpace, whatever the venue, the whole point is to make yourself available for connecting. They are all advertising for you to find your friends, lost or otherwise. It’s obvious that this is very popular, and has taken the net world by storm. It’s even proving to be a great tool for business. Everyone is connecting for one reason or another. However, what about those of us who are holding out for as long as possible in order not to connect? Is it more than just an inkling that keeps us apart?

For me, there are many reasons not to connect. The most important being my own security and my privacy and for that, I have tried Personally, I don’t care for putting myself out there for perusing or dismantling. Anyone who has had to deal with identity theft or a stalker would also probably agree. It can be a nightmare. Never is privacy so respected as when you’re trying to retrieve back your identity and peace of mind.

The other reason I choose not to go the complete route of social networking is that I wish to keep my family safe as well. I do have underage members of my family who deserve their own privacy and protection – and, it’s my responsibility that they remain safe. Where I can see the value of sharing pictures of them online, it is still putting them out there, and possibly at risk. Anyone can lift these pictures off of these sites and use them however they wish. With the net world filled with offenders and hackers, it’s just not worth taking the chance in my opinion.

Despite having the security settings set to their highest setting, these social networking accounts can still be hacked and all their information was stolen. Recently, a WebProNews article, Site Hacking Facebook Accounts for $100 a Pop, by Chris Crum, stated that “less that one percent of all Facebook accounts are considered unhackable”. He went on to say that once a Facebook account is hacked, that all information listed there, including the password, can be taken. Not only that, but the account user can be subjected to viruses, malware, spam, as well as other threats that can go out using their name from that account. Which, if anyone has had the headache of knowing that a virus has sent itself out using your contact list, then it’s even more humiliation. At that point, it’s not just the account user’s problem, but now possibly a problem for all of the account user’s contacts. It’s not just a violation, but it’s that foreboding feeling that is prevalent when you realize that you’ve just infected all of your friends. Truly, that is not a good day.

There is the fact that the social networks themselves are giving each user their own unique identifier number. They are doing this for marketing reasons, however, they give this information to third party tracking sites. Some of those tracking sites are literally tracking everything a user does online. They do this by following the unique identifier of each user. They might refer to this as tracking, but it could be thought of as an invasion of privacy. Amazingly, I have spoken to quite a few folks out there who don’t care that this is occurring. However, when more spam and phishing requests hit our inbox just after signing up for a social network, it does make one wonder exactly who is getting our information, and why.

The other threats are too numerous to mention. However, what about all those pictures that are posted? While it’s fun to share and get feedback, one should be wary about not only the subject of those pictures but also what is in the background. For those who like to boast about their living quarters and are happy to show everything, they could also be providing a nice gathering list for those bad guys who are lurking on walls or in cyberland. Criminal hackers have no problem finding out the location of a user. Not only that, but public records can lead a thief straight to your front door. For those of you who have your profiles filled out all the way, you might want to consider that bad guy can possibly see your profile too, and also be wary of what you’re posting. One would think that the accounts offering all the information, including addresses and phone numbers, would be the easiest targets. Clearly, if you have to say you’re going on vacation and will be away from your home for any length of time, at least hold off until you return to share your experiences. Possibly, that may help from your house being cleaned out while you’re away.

The other thing that I have noticed, is that most regular folks out there on Facebook think that because they have set their security settings at the “highest levels”, they believe their information and pictures are safe. Well, if a hacker is hacking these accounts, then it won’t matter what your security settings are on, because they will be bypassing those settings anyway. If they can get to your password, then they obviously have bypassed all of those settings. Truly, it is something to consider when joining up on the social network. If you must have your social network, then use some common sense.

So, after all of this, I do admit that I have caved in and finally made a Facebook account. It was at the persistent request of a distant family member wishing to share reunion pictures with me. So, I have compromised my own security, and done the deed. However, I do not have anyone on my friend’s list that I do not know. I’m very careful about that part. Now, my high school reunion committee has found me, and they are all clamoring for pictures. Guess what? I have not posted any pictures, and other than my name and location, there is no other information about me or my family posted there. I have become a Facebook prude. It’s not that I have very much to hide, it’s more that I prefer my privacy and wish to be as safe as possible. However, I do realize that this is the internet, and anything is pretty much available if one knows how to dig. I’ve told my friends on Facebook that if they wish to see my pictures, then I will send them privately. So far, that’s been okay. Also, you can rest assured that my password is not an easy one to crack either, and if they choose to steal my account, I am hoping that they will be disappointed in the lack of information and simply move on to the next guy’s account. One would hope, anyway.