Safety on the social streams

August 31st, 2010 by | No Comments

Image by kevindooley

As online marketers, drifting through the social Web seems second nature to us. Employing its many networked platforms to engage with a targeted demographic to boost brand reputation and loyalty, on the other hand, are mere add-ons. However, while we have always put utmost importance on these social media aspects, it’s also important to be safe online.

Social networking sites offer a lot of opportunities for brands to set up their online presence and reach their audience, especially with social media proving to be the number one online time sinkhole this side of the globe. On the flipside though, this is the same reason why many (Cue: theme from Jaws) malicious activities are lurking from social media sites. Here are a few basic safety rules anyone running around the social trails should always practice.


Use Complex Passwords

Perhaps by now, we all know enough to avoid the leading default passwords being used by system administrators back in the 90s which included hilariously obvious ones like “password” and “123456.”

Good thing is, we’ve all learned from Web 1.0 and now each one of us is security savvy enough to have a unique way of coming up with a password. However, as a sturdier layer of security, it’s best to come up with password that only makes sense to you; as such, avoid using your birthday, place of birth or even your mother’s maiden name.

You see, these can easily be researched online through your social profiles especially if you have a strong Web presence. Your personal Web site, blog (you may have mentioned any of these details on a post), messaging services or even via social engineering tactics by nefarious individuals. Should your profile security get compromised, the first step is to change the password immediately.


Better Security Questions

Most sites will make you choose a security question during initial sign up that, when answered correctly, will allow opportunities to reset or recover passwords and grant access to profiles. Like passwords, it is highly recommended that you choose a question that only you would know the answer to, instead of information readily available online.

Take the case of the widely publicized hacking of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s e-mail account a couple of years back. Hackers easily got into her account by guessing the security question which asked for the place where Palin and her husband had met.


Check Backgrounds Before Following

For brands, one of the significant aspects that gauge the success of social media engagements is the number of followers. And so many cybercriminals have gotten into the habit of acting under bogus accounts on Facebook, MySpace and even LinkedIn, impersonating other people and even creating bots on Twitter. Then they follow you, attempt to engage in potentially believable scams and flood your feeds

The best way to counter this is by actually visiting their own profiles to find out for yourself whether the account is legit. Sure, it could take some work, especially if you’re maintaining a large list of followers, but it’s a time investment worth the effort.


Customize Privacy

Despite the recent horrendous privacy debacle, Facebook’s Privacy Settings are actually pretty good, allowing you to choose specific fields and site elements you would like to show to the public. But as we know in social media, keeping your followers in the dark with specific information about your brand is a big no-no because it alienates your demographic. It also hinders transparency from working to your advantage.

But for personal use as a marketer, keep certain information like your home address, personal mobile phone number and away from your profile. The best thing to do should you want to separate your work from your personal online existence is by creating a personal account; one where only your friends are readily allowed access to.


Verify Before Sharing Information

Image by Photo4jenifer

Privacy paranoia aside, you can never be sure of what lurks in the social waters. As such, you should be wary when actually giving out information about yourself or your brand (especially proprietary ones). What’s sort of mind-blowing about this is that scams laden in claims are not new; they’ve been around even before Web 2.0. Remember the fraudster e-mail about that Nigerian prince (like most urban legends, the nationality varies) who wants to give you a large sum of his inheritance? Yes, the scam never gets old and as long as there will be people who fall for them, frauds like these will keep on coming back for more victims.

You should be able to sniff out social engineering tactics from a mile away, so make like a bounty hunter and verify any claims and report frauds to the site admins. There’s Google and Bing for general searches as well as the likes of FactCheck, TruthOrFiction and Snopes you can drive by to verify information.


Double Check Links

Twitter’s 140-character messaging structure has risen from being a limit and has developed into a culture of its own. Many third party applications are now leveraging on its limit by offering users URL shorteners to save up on that precious tweet real estate. However, if the RickRoll meme is any indication, not all shortened URLs should be trusted and instead of an 80s pop singer, a malware-riddled Web page may be shoved down your throat.

To inch yourself further from scenarios like this, you can inspect the underlying full URL by mousing over the short link. However, some shorteners like TinyURL, and forego this. So what you can do instead is head on over to LongURL which reveals the actual URL these services have shortened.


Equip Yourself with an Antivirus

By now, we’re pretty sure every computer, smartphone or just about any Internet-enabled device is well equipped with an antivirus software. If you’ve yet to install one, download or buy off the shelves post haste; you’re bound to catch malware sooner or later. Most security software suites have built-in URL filtering capabilities and maintains constantly updated databases of known virus signatures. They will also alert you when an app or system process is attempting to initiate contact with a site without you prompting it.

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