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Seven steps to identity protection on social networking sites.

SecureTest : 04 April, 2008  (Technical Article)
Advice from SecureTest enables social networking site users to do more to protect their identity than relying on built in security features of such sites.
Complacent social networkers should be taking simple steps to protect their own privacy, asserts independent security testing consultancy, SecureTest. Many users rely upon social networking sites, such as MySpace, Bebo and Facebook, to enforce security and privacy procedures and fail to protect their own identities. Should their details fall into the wrong hands, these users risk becoming the victims of identity theft, cyberstalking or cyberbullying.

The 'Social Networking' report released by Ofcom this week reveals that 60 per cent of users do not mark their profiles as 'private'. It further states that users "give away inappropriate private information publicly" and "may be aware of the risks but this awareness… is not always translated into action." Reasons cited for user inertia include a lack of awareness of security issues; the assumption that the social networking site had taken care of any privacy and safety issues; and, the fact that privacy and safety information was difficult to find and to use.

Ken Munro, Managing Director for SecureTest, adds "The potential risks to personal security brought about by careless disclosure of personal information have been proven to jeopardise people's identities, their reputation and even damage their career prospects. Contact details, family relationships, leisure interests, date of birth, and residence are all readily available and individuals need to take the responsibility for concealing this data. You wouldn't share this information with a stranger so why do people assume it's safe over the internet?"

SecureTest has compiled a list of Seven Security Statements on how users can stay secure on social networking sites:

1 'Friends' - Be careful who you choose as a friend. Make sure that the person you add is the person you think it is, preferably speak to them in person or over the phone to confirm their identity before accepting them.

2 'Privacy' - This is found on the main screen when you log in. The level of exposure is measured using the bar next to each category and there are a few areas which must be altered so that you are only sharing information with the people you want to share it with.

3 'Profile' - Ensure that all categories are set so only recognised friends or where possible yourself can see the information. Be sure to concentrate on areas relating to contact information as these can be used in social engineering and deactivate your wall.

4 'Search' - Ensure that only friends can locate you in a search and prevent any other users from viewing any aspect of your profile, allowing only secure associations to be made.

5 'News Feed' - Uncheck all boxes to prevent friends monitoring application usage and contacts.

6 'Poke, Message and Friend Request' - Be aware that when you contact someone through a poke, message or friend request, Facebook lets that person see part of your profile temporarily. The amount of information which can be seen can be controlled in the reduced profile section.

7 'Applications' - Do not install any applications as this can allow information leakage and tracking of your Facebook usage.
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