10 Things You Should Know About Safer Social Networking

News Analysis: Although Facebook and other social networks won't cause sexually transmitted diseases, there are a number of threats to personal security that individuals and enterprise users need to pay attention to. No matter what you do with your friends on the Internet, here is what you should know about safer social networking.

It's not often that a tech story pops up relating to syphilis. According to researchers in the U.K., they can draw a link between an upswing in syphilis cases and increased Facebook use that has resulted in more strangers meeting up offline.

For its part, Facebook says that the claim is downright ludicrous and using the social network will in no way increase a user's chances of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. That's probably true. And it's more than likely that users who connect with friends on the social network won't need to worry about getting syphilis.
But the story highlights two things that are center to the social networking world: security and privacy.
Security and privacy are extremely important issues to both consumers and companies that log in to social networks and communicate with others. As recent history has shown, malicious hackers are doing their part to capitalize on user desire to access social networks by stealing sensitive data through phishing attacks and other scams. And those threats just keep coming.
That's why we've decided to give a little refresher course on things that users need to know as they continue to jump feet first into the social world. Here is what they are:
1. The security threats are real
Although some folks scoff at the security threats posed by social networks, they are real and they can do significant damage. Security problems related to social networks might not compare to those found on Windows, but they are still troublesome. Security firm Sophos recently witnessed an uptick in malware resulting from social networking use. It's a real issue. If users want to maintain security going forward, they need to be more aware of the potential flaws that exist in social networks. If that doesn't happen, even more trouble could erupt.
2. Employers aren't too fond of social networking
The enterprise isn't very inviting when it comes to social networking. The issue at most firms is that users are attempting to access social networks from corporate computers. Because of the aforementioned security issues and the inherent trust some folks have in social networks, malware can break out across a corporate network. That's precisely why employees need to be more careful accessing social networks in the workplace. If trouble erupts, it's the employee who could face the most trouble.
3. Phishing scams galore
Malicious hackers love that more and more people are joining social networks. As millions of people around the globe connect with others and continue to receive e-mail requests from their favorite social networks, malicious hackers have found a way to capitalize. They simply look at the design and wording of a message sent by a social network, mimic it and send it to peoples' e-mail addresses. If a person clicks a link in the e-mail and is redirected to a malicious site, the hackers can potentially steal sensitive information. Going forward, users need to be more careful about what they click on in e-mails. There are some telltale signs that an e-mail is a phishing scam, and users need to be aware of them.
4. Privacy isn't guaranteed
It's nice to think that as users communicate with friends on social networks, all of their information will be kept private from others. But the reality is, that doesn't happen. Social networks are becoming increasingly less private, due to user desire to share more content than ever before. Years ago, the Web was a place of anonymity where users would rarely share anything beyond their usernames. Today, their lives are out in the open for anyone to see. For example, Bing features real-time Facebook status updates and a feed of tweets from Twitter. If a user is saying something they don't want folks to know, putting it into a status update or tweet is probably not the best place for it.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...