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Advice on safeguarding on-line identity

Aladdin Knowledge Systems : 03 February, 2009  (Technical Article)
Aladdin uncovers ease with which fake on-line personas can be fabricated from diverse data on real individuals and explains how to avoid it happening
Most professionals have enough public data that it can be easily aggregated and used to build a complete online persona. In several experiments performed by Aladdin Knowledge Systems' Attack Intelligence Research Centre, a simulated fake online persona ended up connecting to the real network of acquaintances rather easily. The damage potential of this phenomenon can be devastating - both on a personal level and a corporate level.

With business related information exchanged over social networks on a daily basis, employees constantly disclose business information related to proposed and ongoing customer partnerships, post chat and messaging between peers, share travel information, and even hint at customer maintenance efforts. For an organisation, having employees' profiles on social networks stolen/hijacked could potentially make sensitive information available outside of controlled corporate networks. The ease of creating such a profile, connecting to the corporate employees, business partners and customers can create unforeseen complications if not managed with foresight.

Thus, what started as a benign "fun" way to socialise grew into a professional way to maintain one's network and make new connections. But we see this quickly turning into an online vulnerability that could include identity hijacking (rather than identity theft) and damage to both personal and corporate reputations.

Ian Amit, director of security research at Aladdin's Attack Intelligence Research Center, discusses online identities and their potential risks as part of the 2009 section of the Center's latest annual report.

Control Your Online Identity - Top Tips to Beating the Bad Guys:

1 Know your online persona. Whether or not you already have an online profile on a social network, it is imperative to know how you appear online. Like a surprise account on a credit report, you may find that you have identities you did not expect or that someone created an identity for you.

2 Create multiple online profiles. Maintain online profiles in the major networks, such as LinkedIn, MySpace, and Facebook. Even if you do not plan to use or maintain the profiles, you need to "own" them before someone else does.

3 Link your identities. It's easier to maintain control of different profiles if you link the major profiles to each other. Most social networking sites enable users to post a "my Web site" link - this can be used to point to the online profile that's maintained regularly.

4 Be cautious of complete strangers. You should not automatically "friend" people or accept them into a network. It's not a popularity contest, so you should make sure that you actually know the people you're connected to.

5 Stay in control. If you happens to have stumbled onto a rogue profile, whether a purposefully created one, or one that was created illegitimately, most social networking sites provide a way to contact the site in order to remove or correct a profile.
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