Iowa State University

ITInformation Technology

Staying Safe on Social Network Sites

This news item expired February 21, 2009. It may contain out-of-date information.
Because social network sites, such as Facebook or MySpace, are all about connecting to people, they encourage you to provide information about yourself. Just as in person, however, everyone is not always who they seem to be. Here's a few tips from US-CERT that can help keep you safe. Limit the amount of personal information you post. Do not post information that would make you vulnerable (e.g., your address, information about your schedule or routine). If your connections post information about you, make sure the combined information is not more than you would be comfortable with strangers knowing. Remember that the Internet is a public resource. Only post information you are comfortable with anyone seeing. This includes information in your profile and in blogs and other forums. Also, once you post information online, you can't retract it. Even if you remove the information from a site, saved or cached versions may still exist on other people's machines (see Guidelines for Publishing Information Online, http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/tips/ST05-013.html, for more information). Be wary of strangers. The Internet makes it easy for people to misrepresent their identities and motives (see Using Instant Messaging and Chat Rooms Safely, http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/tips/ST04-011.html, for more information). Consider limiting the people who are allowed to contact you on these sites. If you interact with people you do not know, be cautious about the amount of information you reveal or agreeing to meet them in person. Be skeptical. Don't believe everything you read online. People may post false or misleading information about various topics, including their own identities. This is not necessarily done with malicious intent; it could be unintentional, a product of exaggeration, or a joke. Take appropriate precautions, though, and try to verify the authenticity of any information before taken any action. Check privacy policies. Some sites may share information such as email addresses or user preferences with other companies. This may lead to an increase in spam (see Reducing Spam, http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/tips/ST04-007.html, for more information). Also, try to locate the policy for handling referrals to make sure that you do not unintentionally sign your friends up for spam. Some sites will continue to send email messages to anyone you refer until they join. ==== The tips above were excerpted from an article produced by US-CERT and is used with permission. Copyright 2006 Computer Emergency Readiness Team. The complete article can be found at http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/tips/ST06-003.html.