Social Networking: What is it?

You may or may not have heard of the term “Social Networking”. I’m sure you’ve heard of the sites: MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn.  These sites, and sites like them, are the entry points to Social Networking.

Wikipedia defines “a social network service as focusing on building on-line communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Most social network services are web based and provide a variety of ways for users to interact, such as e-mail and instant messaging services.

Social networking has created powerful new ways to communicate and share information. Social networking websites are being used regularly by millions of people, and it now seems that social networking will be an enduring part of everyday life. Popular methods now combine many of these, with MySpace and Facebook being the most widely used in North America…”

From Steve O’Hear’s article Facebook and MySpace are like chalk ‘n’ cheese – “A teenager’s bedroom, plastered with posters (and brands) and with continuous background music, sounds a lot like a MySpace profile. Add into the room a teenager or two who are always on the phone or text messaging friends about gossip or the hottest new band — and very generally speaking, you’ve nailed much of the appeal of MySpace. The fact that teenagers are increasingly using the site’s internal messaging system over email says it all. Additionally, those posters on the wall can be other user’s profiles, which include bands and brands vying for wall space.

In contrast, Facebook is much more popular amongst college students and graduates/professionals (due to it’s University roots). The site’s design is far less customizable — you can’t decorate your room. Instead, any customization is about deciding what functionality to include. This is even more so now that third parties can set-up-shop on the site and add new features which fulfill every possible need. I logged into Facebook today to accept a few friend requests, and noticed a professional networking event, that one of my contacts was looking to hire, and another had a rather nice laptop for sale. Getting that info took seconds due to Facebook’s controlled and efficient interface. Completely different to MySpace.”

LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site and is mainly used for professional networking. The purpose of the site is to allow registered users to maintain a list of contact details of people they know and trust in business. The people in the list are called Connections. Users can invite anyone (whether a site user or not) to become a connection.

There are security concerns for each of these sites, especially since teenagers are opening up their lives on them. The sites are trying to protect minors from on-line bullying and sexual predators and for the most part are doing a fairly good job. It is important to be educated on the risks and have your teenagers, if you have any,  educated on the risks. You can find some good information at OnGuardOnline.gov.

Social networking will only grow over time. It’s now being fed to smart phones and is definitely something you should look into.

Anyone up for a little phishing?

Yes, I spelled that right. Phishing is the act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity-theft. The e-mail directs the user to visit a web site where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords and credit card, social security, and bank account numbers, that the legitimate organization already has. The Web site, however, is bogus and set up only to steal the user’s information. Phishing mail often includes official-looking logos and other identifying information taken directly from legitimate Web sites, and it may include convincing details about your personal information that scammers found on your social networking pages.

The following is a sample e-mail. As you can see, it’s not obvious at first that this is a fake. It has the bank’s logo at the top and looks legitimate but what gives this one away is the link at the bottom. The posted link (1) shows the real site but if you click on that link you’ll be taken to the site of the 2nd link (2), which is the scam site.

Fake E-mail

Fake E-mail

How can you be sure about the accuracy of a link? In just about every e-mail that has a link, when you hover your mouse arrow over the link without clicking, a pop-up window will show you the actual site that you will be taken to if you click on the link. If it doesn’t match the link shown, be wary.

So what do you do if you get an email that looks legitimate but is asking for you to click on a link to enter personal information or verify your personal information? Don’t click on the links within emails that ask for your personal information. Fraudsters use these links to lure people to phony Web sites that look just like the real sites of the company, organization, or agency they’re impersonating. If you follow the instructions and enter your personal information on the Web site, you’ll deliver it directly into the hands of identity thieves. To check whether the message is really from the company or agency, call the company directly or go to its web site by typing the real address in your browsers address bar, but never click on the link.

Now, what was that password again?

Have you ever brought up a website, be it your bank, insurance company, credit card, etc., only to not remember what you used for the username and password? Or worse, do you use the same username and password for every site you need to log on to? There is a solution, and I’m not talking about the web browser’s “remember this password” prompt.

I use a program call RoboForm (http://www.roboform.com/). RoboForm installs as an add-in to your browser. When you open a website that requires a username and password, RoboForm offers to save what you enter in it’s database. The next time you go to that site, you just click on the site link on the menu bar and it fills in the username and password for you. You can even have RoboForm generate a password for you so you don’t end up using the same password for every site. You can also set it up with your personal information so that when you come to a site where you need to fill in name, address, etc., you click the item on the menu bar and it fills in the blanks for you.

There is a free version that is limited to 10 passwords and 2 identities. The paid version allows unlimited passwords and identities, so you and your family members can each record their own passwords. You can password protect your password list so it is protected from others. Compare the two versions here – http://www.roboform.com/why-pro.html

There is also a version that installs on a USB Flash Drive so you can use it in multiple computers and once you remove the flash drive, no trace of your passwords remains. This is a great version for people who have multiple computers or tend to use public computers since with RoboForm, you don’t need to type in personal data or passwords; it’s all done by clicking on the menu bar item. This defeats any keylogging software that might be on a computer.

So, with RoboForm, you’ll never forget a password again. I recommend it.