Threats Of Social Media

As seen on Boomers’ Brain Trust with Johnny Dean and Dinah Smith


Facebook, Twitter, Instagram have all consumed our daily routines, as well as the amount of eyes seeing our personal information. So what’s the problem? Do you want every detail of your life being seen by the world?– More people own a cell phone than a toothbrush. There are 6.8 billion people on the planet. 5.1 billion of them own a cell phone, but only 4.2 billion own a toothbrush. (Source: Mobile Marketing Association Asia) Cell phones are a primary source to the Internet and is included on nearly every phone. Threats from the internet not only come from those who invade your privacy, but also major organizations watching how you conduct your activities online to better target marketing to you in a direct fashion. There are ways to avoid threats and be safe online. So we no long just expose our privacy from our desktop, now we expose our privacy from our mobile devices in more places and more quickly. There are few organizations, and fewer laws that do anything to protect our privacy. Your medical doctor has more restrictions on what they can do with your medical records, but a data broker using Internet data mining can reveal more about you than even your doctor knows. When it comes to your real data privacy it’s like the Wild West all over again, but this time it’s on a worldwide basis.

What are the biggest threats to privacy online?

The biggest threat to our privacy is we that give it away in many tiny and invisible breadcrumbs.

The “Big 5” Threats

1.  Cookie Proliferation.

Okay, so what is a Cookie you asked? A Cookie is a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in your web browser while you browse the website. Every time the you load that website, the browser sends the cookie back to the server to notify the website of the your previous activity. Cookies were designed to be a reliable mechanism for websites to remember stateful information (such as items in a shopping cart) or to record the your browsing activity (including clicking particular buttons, logging in, or recording which pages were visited by the user as far back as months or years ago. Cookies cannot carry viruses, and cannot install malware on the your computer, but cookies and especially third-party tracking cookies are commonly used as ways to compile long-term records of individuals’ browsing histories a potential privacy concern. The data found it a Cookie is useful to providing you a better experience on a website. They can remember your user id for the site, some even your password. They can remember you already purchased a product so they won’t keep trying to sell you that same product or maybe recommend some new things that go with that product you already purchased. But what happens when someone might read the hundreds to thousands of cookies you might have on your computer, they now know a tremendous amount about you. So how is this “The Cookie Problem?” Well, 6 to 8 years ago, if you opened Wall Street Journal site in your browser, you’d get a cookie from the site. And if we were to examine your computer today after the same visit we might find 7 to 30 cookies on your computer. Today even one website visit might place up to 50 cookies from all sorts of third parties: ad servers, data brokers, and trackers. They can build up this big profile about your browsing history.” But only does it slow your browser, but collects a treasure trove of information about you. Data brokers are now making millions to provide insurance companies, marketers, credit card companies, and just about anyone else who’s willing to pay for the information a detailed profile about you. What decisions are being made for you that you don’t even know about? What special offer you may receive or never even know about.  What price increases you may be hit with.  Maybe even the cancellation of an insurance policy for some unknown reason. And we haven’t even address law enforcement, employers, the husband or wife that’s seeking dirt in a divorce, or others with even more nefarious agendas. This is like Pandora’s box, once your open the box; it’s hard to close.

2.  Cloud Data

So what is an example of cloud data storage? Well if you use Google Contacts, all of your contact information is stored in Google’s data cloud. If your Google account is hacked or compromised, so is your contact information. Imagine a disgruntled employee that may have physical access or your password to your account. Chances are good you don’t have a backup of your contact list, after all Google does that for you. So now if that disgruntled employee decides to delete all or part of your contacts, what do you do? Or better yet they decide they want to compete with you. They copy your contacts and contact them to provide the same product of service as you under a similar but slightly different name. They send an email notifying your customers of your new website. Except the new website is yours it theirs. How much business could you lose? I’ve personal seen this game played out a two times now. And no one saw it coming, and yes there were lawsuits and in one case criminal charges, but in both cases it damaged the businesses so badly that they had to bankrupt the companies. It can be harder to notice cloud data accesses or breaches because it not on your network. So while cloud data services can be a better and lower cost solution, with better security than you have, they do introduce new concerns. And to tech suave hackers data clouds offer a treasure trove of data, because if they can hack a data cloud it’s not just your data they can gain access to but to many individuals and companies.

3.  Location Data

This is data on your mobile device that tracks where you are and stores the information. That means that by accessing this data you can track where you have been, or your travel patterns.

4.  Facial Recognition Databases

As wearable technology becomes more popular facial recognition databases are growing rapidly. And guess what, you and I are probably spending some time, anywhere from a few days a week to everyday helping to build these massive databases. Further more we are doing the work to build the databases for free. I’m not doing that you say! Well let me ask you a question. Do you post pictures on Social Media and tag the faces in the picture? Yep, that’s how they build their database! The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. According to their staff attorney Jennifer Lynch ““Most consumers are already in the largest facial recognition database in the world, and that’s Facebook. In her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2012, she testified how Facebook users were, at the time, uploading about 300 million photos to the social networking site every day. Facebook uses the tags associated with those photos to build ever-more-detailed “faceprints” of what you and your friends look like from every angle.

5.  Internet Scanners (Government . . . Except)

Individual and even more so organizations that scan the Internet to develop your social footprint. They pick up a bit from Facebook, a bit from Twitter, a bit from Pinterest, and so on and before you know it they know as much, or maybe even more that you family does about you.

2. What sort of information should you not reveal on social media?

As a Social Media marketer I teach people to be open and transparent. Absolutely be yourself, but use some common sense. All of my top 10 tips can be summed up with this one rule. “Posting on Social Media is like being on a stage, if you would do it, or say it live before a live audience, don’t “do it” on social media.” Here are the Top 10 things to think about;

 1. Personal and Private Information.

Personal and private matters should never be shared on your wall. If you wouldn’t consider sharing the information to a new small group in a church, social or civic organization don’t share it on Social Media.

2.  Social Plans

This is a difficult issue. Let’s say the advice is not to post your social plans online unless you want all of you connections potentially joining the party. This move could include ex’s that just may want to check out your new friends and see some of their old ones. S, if you’re planning a big party unless you’re planning to invite all the users you’re connected to, simply don’t do it. If you do you can and probably will make some your other friends feel left out if they don’t get an invitation. The better solution is to send personal “e-vites” for to the people you want to come. That way the invitation is for their eyes only and nobody is the wiser. Except for post from the party. Even if you don’t do the post, friend probably will and guess who will be tagged in the pictures. This is the IRL (In Real Life) vs. Social Media friend’s problem. Remember Social Media isn’t just about you and your behavior, it about your friends behavior as well. This lack of friend-of-friends privacy control is one of the biggest curses of Social Media. The best advice is to be complete transparency. You see even if you personally disconnect from social media it is unrealistic to expect or thing your friends will as well. This is simply a new and yet undefined consideration that social rules and etiquette just haven’t caught up with yet.

3.  Linking Sites

Just remember when you Link site you expand your reach which is great for marketing and personal branding, but to have to consider the crossover effect. With 51 percent of social network users taking advantage of more than one site, there’s bound to be some crossover from one to the other, especially if you have the sites linked. You may post something you find innocuous on Facebook, but then it’s linked to your LinkedIn work profile and you’ve put your job at risk.

4.  Company or Workplace Information.

Many companies are so serious about not being included in social networking sites that they forbid employees from using sites like Facebook at work. Some IT departments even filter the URLs and block access to these sites altogether so employees aren’t tempted to log on.

5.  Photos of Your Children

Social networking sites are a common place for people to share pictures of their families, but if you’re one of the 40 percent of users who don’t restrict access to your profile, then those pictures are there for everyone to see. It’s a sad fact, but there are a lot of predators who use the Internet to stalk their prey. If you post pictures of your family and couple that with information like, “my husband is out of town this weekend” or “little Johnny is old enough to stay at home by himself now,” then your children’s safety could be at risk. Nobody ever thinks it will happen to them until it does, so safety first is a good default mode when using social networking sites.

 6.  Your Home Address and Phone Number

File this one under security risk. If you share your address and phone number on a social networking site, you open yourself up to threats of identity theft and other personal dangers like burglaries. If you post that you’re going on vacation and you have your address posted, then everyone knows you have an empty house. Identity thieves could pay a visit to your mailbox and open up a credit card in your name. Burglars could rid your home of anything of value. Even just posting your phone number gives people with Internet savvy easy access to your address. Reverse lookup services can supply anyone with your home address if you can provide the phone number.

 7.  Personal Finance Information

You’re posting to a long thread on a friend’s wall about the bank crisis. You say something along the lines of, “We don’t need to worry because we bank with a teacher’s credit union,” or even, “We put all our money into blue chip stocks and plan to ride it out.” Again, if you’re one the 40 percent who allow open access to your profile, then suddenly identity thieves know where you bank and where you have the bulk of your investments. It’s easy to forget that what may seem like a harmless comment on a Facebook wall could reveal a great deal about your personal finances. 8.  Your Password This one really seems like a no-brainer, but if it didn’t happen, then Facebook probably wouldn’t feel the need to list it in the No. 1 slot on its list of things you shouldn’t share. Even sharing the password with a friend so he or she can log on and check something for you can be a risk. This is especially true with couples who feel like there’s enough trust to share these kinds of things. Here’s another scenario for you: You give your boyfriend your Facebook password because he wants to help you upload some vacation photos. A couple of months later, the relationship sours, he turns into a not-so-nice guy and then there’s a person out there who doesn’t like you and has your login information. Time to cancel your account and get a new one. 9.  Password Hints Most Web sites that contain secure personal information require a password also have at least one password hint in case you forget. It typically goes like this: You sign up for something like online banking and you get a login and password and then choose a security question for when you forget your password. What’s the name of your first pet? What’s your mother’s maiden name? What was your high school mascot? What’s the name of the first street you lived on? Including any of these details on a Facebook wall or status update may not seem like a big deal, but it could provide an identity thief with the last piece of the puzzle needed to hack into your bank account. Think before you post anything that could compromise this information.

10. Anything You Don’t Want Shared

You can select all the privacy settings you want on social networking sites, but the fact is, if you post it, it has the potential to be seen by someone you don’t want seeing it. You know all those fun Facebook applications, quizzes and polls you can’t help but fill out? A study performed by the University of Virginia found that of the top 150 applications on Facebook, 90 percent were given access to information they didn’t need in order for the app to function. So when you sign up to find out what sitcom star you most identify with, the makers of that poll now have access to your personal information. It’s anybody’s guess where it goes from there. Social networking is all about sharing, so something you think is in confidence can easily be shared and then shared again, and before you know it, someone you don’t even know has access to something private. “When in doubt, leave it out” is a good motto to follow. And always remember that anything you share has the potential to be leaked in some way.

Is there a way to block hackers from getting access to your information?

1.  Create a Firmware Password 2.  Keep Your Computer’s, Firewall, Virus Scanner, Malware Scanner Up to Date 3.  Turn off Remote Login. I only turn remote login on when I need it for a specific purpose for a short period of time. 4.  Choose a Secure Password or Better Yet Use a Secure Password Manager 5.  Change Your Passwords Regularly and Make sure to use different passwords for different sites. 6.  Don’t Open Links or attachements including videos from Doubtful Sources 7.  Don’t Give Others Physical Access 8.  Camera Covers

Advise for parents who have children on social media?

1o Easy Tips 1. Remember Social Media is a PG-13  or higher Rated Service Generally 13 years old. Just remember many of these sites contain content that would be rated PG-13 or greater. 2.  Check Privacy Settings Check that your privacy settings for the Internet and Facebook are set to the strictest levels. Depending on which browser you are using, you can adjust the settings directly from the options tab and adjust levels around cookies, third party sites and more. This not only protects the computer user, but also the computer from the threat of viruses. Checking your Facebook privacy settings is easy as well 3.  Use Filtering Software  There are software suites you can purchase to monitor your child’s Internet usage; many even enable you to view the exact keys that were typed, time spent online and all computer activity in general. Popular programs such as Net Nanny and PureSight PC let you monitor social media sites, block chats, filter content and much more. You can even monitor your child’s cell phone with a software program like My Mobile Watchdog 4.  Create Ground Rules If your kids are old enough to be using the computer on their own, they are old enough to understand that there are rules they need to abide by. Breaking them should not have a lesser consequence than if they broke a rule in the offline world. The best way for families to agree on ground rules is to create a contract that all parties must sign. The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) encourages parents and kids to have an open discussion about what these rules mean, and offers a good example of a contract here. 5.  Keep the Computer in a Central Location It’s much easier to keep tabs on any online activity when the computer is located in a high-traffic zone than if your child is using a computer in the privacy of her own room. Place the computer in a central location like your kitchen or family room so that everything is out in the open.  6.  Urge Your Kids to Avoid Questionnaires, Free Giveaways and Contests A pop-up ad appears and tells kids they can win a free iPad by simply clicking the link. Anyone would be tempted by this kind of offer, but kids are particularly susceptible, so it’s important to warn kids against falling for this kind of Internet trick. Many of these ruses are attempts to glean personal information. Inform kids that even if they are forwarded a fun questionnaire from a friend, it’s best to close the window and not participate. 7.  Monitor the Pictures Your Child Posts Online In an ideal world, your child would never post a photo of herself online, but that might not be entirely realistic. If she wants to share photos with her friends via email or a social networking site, be sure you know exactly which pictures are being posted. Make sure the content of the photo is completely innocuous and that no identifiable locales in the background are noticeable. 8.  Be a Good Example of How to Use Social Media If you are tweeting and updating your Facebook page at a stop light and taking every opportunity to “just check something,” you’re setting a poor precedent for social media usage that your child will surely follow. Always remember to ask yourself if you’re setting a good example and demonstrating proper technology etiquette as well. 9.  Teach Kids about an Online Reputation Many kids don’t seem to understand the permanence of the online world. Make sure to stress to your kids what a digital footprint is and the impact inappropriate messages or images could have if a future college administrator or employer were to stumble upon them. As stated in the AAP study, what goes online stays online. 10.  Talk to Kids about Online Dangers You may feel like you’re scaring your kids when talking to them about the dangers of being online, but it’s better for them to be scared than to be unaware. Having an open line of communication is crucial the minute your kids start using the Internet more independently. Parry Aftab,noted online safety and privacy expert and Executive Director of WiredSafety, says, “Who’s a stranger online? Everyone is! You need to remind your children that these people are strangers and that the standard rules always apply.”