Social networks are a modern reality. It often seems like we spend more time on them than we do chatting in real life to friends, family and colleagues. Of course, it can be an excellent way to communicate, since neither time nor distance matters. With social networks, our friends, relatives and colleagues instantly know everything new that’s happening to us. Isn’t that cool?
Of course it is. Social networks are an especially good way of forging new relationships. With time, such acquaintanceships can grow into friendship, love or business partnerships. Social networks make it easy to keep in close contact with your colleagues, exchanging business and confidential information. But it’s not all good news; there’s a flipside to this convenience. Let’s take a closer look.
Strangers. Every now and then you get a request from somebody who you don’t know at all. It might be someone from the same interest group, or it may be a “friend of a friend”. Quite often it’s somebody with whom you have no prior point of contact. Either way, you have a potential new friend or contact.
Ask yourself: “Why?” And remember the simple maxim “Trust, but verify” – it suits this situation very well. If you don’t know the people who are seeking your friendship, it may be better to refrain from telling them your personal affairs, sharing your plans or your daily routines. When talking to strangers there are a few things you need to be wary about. You need to be cautious and remember to keep your personal information to yourself. There are various ways of winkling out any valuable information you might know, and increasingly we are seeing evidence of dedicated ‘social engineering’ services which aim to forge contacts with new people and gain their confidence. Keep this in mind when you meet people on a social network. Just like in real life, it’s better not to spill your guts the first day you meet somebody.
Confidential information. People love to share information in social networks – that might include their real addresses, pictures of newly purchased fancy gadgets, air tickets to holiday resorts, a brand new bank card or a passport. For a fraudster, this is party time. There are a number of ways they can use this against you, from stealing your valuables in your absence to ripping off your bank account by using your card number and the CVV code they saw in a picture you posted in a social network. They can even prepare fake documents with your information, which could be used for fraud or even to create a stolen identity used to carry out a terrorist attack. Stolen passwords or confidential information can also lead to blackmail and extortion. Of course, a modern IT security system can help you keep all this information safe and sound, but it’s always better to be alert rather than find out later that your personal info was leaked.
What do we share, and with whom? This is also important. Before you hit the “share” button, think about whether you really need to share that information. For example, after getting a bad grade in a test, it’s tempting to sound off about your tutor. But don’t forget that the same tutor may well get to hear about them, and possibly remember them in your next exam. Similarly, your message could hurt people who you never imagined would see it. So, you shouldn’t share your status with the entire world. Limit yourself to a set of people you know very well. This way, you will avoid unwanted conflicts and protect yourself from possible fraudsters.