Social Networking

IN Resources | 18/09/2012
 i.   Facebook
Based on the data from Quancast, Compete and Alexa, Facebook is most popular social networking website. It is followed by Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and then Google+. A lot of journalists and activists use Facebook for reaching out to their contacts and also sharing news and updates. Therefore the Facebook’s platform poses a serious risk to privacy of such professionals. Tightening the glitches in security can make accounts more secure and protected from surveillance by third parties. This walkthrough will assume that the person knows the basic use of Facebook (sharing updates, links, videos, reading personal messages, using pages and apps and also apply on Facebook Timeline only.)
Since the inception of Timeline feature in Facebook, it is now possible for other users to view your activity all the way till the time when you joined Facebook. Now all the profiles on Facebook have the Timeline feature even if some of us didn’t like it.
Secure browsing
By default Facebook has now started secure browsing for most users. You can check your account’s secure browsing by checking the link in your browser. It should appear like this:
Observe the “s” in the ‘https’ section. This means that the connection between you and the server is ‘Secure’ and thus no one can eavesdrop into your account. Maybe this feature is disabled in your account. If so, then your account is highly vulnerable to hackers and spammers. To enable this security feature:
  • Go to account settings from the Account Settings tab. To access it, click the dropdown menu option next to your name and Home button in the top most tab and click on Account Settings. You will get access to the General Account Settings page. Here you can change your username and password for your account. Check out this link for choosing a good password:
  • Here you will also be able to see a ‘Security’ option on the left side menu. Click on that and you will land up on the Security Settings page.
  • The first option that you can see here is the ‘Secure Browsing’ option. To the extreme right of it, you can view the ‘Edit’ button.
  • Click on edit and you will get an option of a checkbox saying “Browse Facebook on a secure connection (https) when possible”. Make sure it is checked.
Now, you have secured your account against hackers. You can do other security tweaks in the same page to make your account more secure.
Get notified if someone else logged into your account
Facebook has given its users to make their account as much secure as possible. In the same page the next option that you will find is the ‘Login Notifications’. This is a very handy tool when you want to make sure that you are the only one who can access your account.
  • Click on the edit button for login notifications. Here the option will say that “We can notify you when your account is accessed from a computer or mobile device that you haven't used before. Choose a notification method below:”
  • Then it will give you options as to how you want to be notified that a device has accessed your account. You have options of getting notified by either Email or by an SMS on your mobile phone. So whenever anyone accesses your account without your knowledge, you will get an alert notifying you that someone has accessed your account on your Email or phone or even both.
These two security options give a big security boost to your Facebook account and it is recommended that you have both of them enabled.
Know how third party apps affect your privacy
You should also keep a constant check on the third party apps that you use through your Facebook account. Facebook does not provide any assistance in case you compromise your account security through faulty third party apps.
  • Under the Security Settings, you will have access to an ‘Apps’ option on the left. Click on it and you will get a list of apps that you are using or have used on Facebook. Remember, all apps require your permission to be enabled in your account. Therefore be cautious about which apps you trust and which ones you don’t. Apart from compromising your security, these apps can post on your behalf and therefore do a voluntary activity on your account without your consent each time; they just require your first time permission.
  • In the list you will have an Edit option to each app on the extreme right. Here you can tweak the settings for each app like if the app posts on your behalf, who can view it and when does the app notify you including other options. It will also give you a description of what the app can do on your account.
  • On the top right corner, you have the option of ‘Remove app’. By clicking on this you can completely remove any app that you don’t want to use or don’t trust.
Setting up all these options should give you an optimal security.
Now in order to control who can view your status updates, your friend list, photos, videos, your profile information; you need to check your privacy settings. These can be similarly accessed through the drop down menu on the top right corner next to the Home button.
  • Click on privacy settings.
  • Here you can click on the “editing your basic info” link in the first statement. This link will take you to editing your basic info such as your birthday, sex, what your interests are, languages, religion etc. Each option has a drop down button on the right. There you can control who can view that particular info about you.
  • You can keep this info either public or limited to you ‘Only you’ or just your friends.
In the privacy settings page, the second option that you have is how you want to control your default privacy. By default, Facebook has set this on the ‘Friends’ option. This means that your status updates and uploads like photos when uploaded through other devices like mobile phones will be visible to your friends only. If you are using a computer, you have an option of customizing as to who can view your status update or any upload like photos.
The third option that you can customize in privacy setting is the ‘How you connect’ with people option. This option controls who can view your profile, updates, send you messages and friend requests. By editing these settings you can change who can send you friend requests and who can’t.
Another useful feature that Facebook provides is tagging. Tagging can help a user notify other users of his or her status updates or uploads. But this can get annoying at times and it can alter your privacy to other tagged users irrespective of whether you know them or not. By editing this option, you can change:
(i)    Who can post on your timeline? You can change it to either friends or no one.
(ii)  Who can see what other post on your timeline? You can change this to either friends, friends of friends, everyone or even further customize it.
(iii) Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline. By default this option is off. This is a very handy option of controlling your timeline. If someone tags you in a post, it appears on your timeline without your consent but if you have this option enabled, you will be able to review the tag and approve or disapprove it.
(iv)  Who can see posts you’ve been tagged in on your timeline? The customization for this option is similar to option (ii).
(v)   Review tags friends add to your own posts on Facebook. This option gives you control over your updates and uploads. It is recommended to enable this option as it can also alter your privacy settings.
(vi) Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded? Facebook suggests tagging options when someone uploads a photo which has you in it or what ‘Facebook thinks’ is like you. It will ask the user uploading the photo to tag you if this option is set to Friends. It is recommended to keep this option on ‘No one’.
Then you get the option of managing your ads, apps, games and websites. These options are self explanatory.
You can also control who can view your old posts. Maybe in the past you had uploaded or shared something that you had kept public. But now you want none of your activity to be shown to public. You can use the option of ‘Limit the Audience for Past Posts’.
  • Click on manage past post visibility
  • Click on ‘Limit Old Posts’.
You can customize the list of blocked people and apps in the last option under privacy settings. Facebook gives you options to block a person which means that user cannot send you any friend requests or either views your profile information except the ones you made public. Facebook also gives you the option to create a restricted friend list. These friends are not notified of your posts and can neither view any information about you except public information. You can edit both your restricted list and blocked persons list here. Same applies for the events that others invite you to. You can restrict specific friends from inviting you to any events. The last option lists your blocked apps list. Here you can unblock these apps or block more that you don’t want interacting with you on your profile.
Even though taking all these steps should boost the security of your Facebook account immensely but still your account is vulnerable to attacks such as phishing and malware. These attacks can be triggered by your will. All the steps described above give security from automated attacks but do not provide any security about the faults of your own.
  • Regularly phishing apps are being developed by scammers who try to steal your information. Information on internet is money and these scammers make millions out of these scams by tricking users. These scammers develop apps which look like other certified apps. So, many times you are tricked into phishing by these apps. Therefore use apps cautiously.
  • Phishing can reveal your personal and financial information. Sometimes these apps can even be malware which apart from obtaining your personal information can also harm your computer and cause important data to be lost. Some examples of scams on Facebook are gaming scams, ‘who viewed your profile’ scams, clickjacking (A technique used by attackers to trick users into clicking on links or buttons that are hidden from view.) Best is to avoid clicking on suspicious links.
  • Also avoid making friends with imposters and always verify your friend list. Follow the link given in the article above to create a strong password and also don’t keep your password stored in your computer’s or mobile phone’s browser.
 ii.   Twitter
Twitter is the second most popular social networking website in the world after Facebook. Unlike Facebook, Twitter is more oriented towards fast paced social networking. Twitter is known to be addictive and a lot of popular personalities use it as compared to other social networking sites. In this walkthrough we will explain how to make your account more secure and safe. But the more important part of using social networking sites is taking precautions in case of fake and dubious content.
The first and foremost security concern is your password.
Here is a useful link to choosing a good and secure password.
Once you have the password made up, it is time to dwell into the security features of Twitter which can be tweaked in ways so that our account can stay protected and safe from scammers and hackers.
Twitter provides its own security tips but here we will try to provide you the same information in a more informative and explained manner.
Make sure you are logging into ‘the’ Twitter site
Hackers develop fake sites that exactly look like the popular sites we use. Some time you might encounter a website that exactly looks like Twitter but is actually a phishing site. If you do fall prey to any such websites, go to the actual Twitter site which should like this:
Login and change your password as soon as possible.
Make sure you are logging into the ‘secure’ Twitter site.
You can check that by checking the link in the browser. If the link says, then you are logging or logged into a secure connection. If the link says, then you are using a secure connection. To do so, make sure that you have https option in the account turned on.
  • Go to settings by clicking the dropdown menu on the top.
  • Look for the option that says ‘Always use HTTPS’ and check the box next to it.
These 3 steps are useful in keeping your credentials safe and hack-proof.
Now in order to protect your activity you need to mind a few settings in your account. Twitter is a social networking platform; therefore the default settings make your tweets visible to most people. If you are working as an activist or a journalist who has important sources as contacts on Twitter, you ethically need to protect them. Therefore even your tweets must be protected.
Protect your Tweets
You must understand the difference between public tweets and private tweets. By default the settings are set as ‘public’ which means everyone on the web can see your tweets. Even the ones who don’t have a Twitter account. Private tweets are visible only to you and those people you have approved to be your followers. Make sure your tweets are private if you don’t want the whole world to know what you want to say on Twitter.
  • Go to settings by clicking the dropdown menu on the top (which shows a person).
  • Scroll down to the option that says ‘Tweet privacy’ and check the box saying ‘Protect my Tweets’.
Protect your location from where you Tweet
Sharing is what social networks are there for. But over-sharing can be very harmful. Twitter has a Geo-tagging feature which displays your location when you tweet especially from a smartphone. There have been incidents when people’s houses have been robbed after they tweeted. It has even become a joke on the web where geo-tagging is also called a ‘Please Rob me’ feature. If you are a journalist or an activist, it is highly recommended to disable the geo-tagging feature.
  • Go to settings from the dropdown menu.
  • Scroll down to ‘Tweet location’ and uncheck the box that says ‘Add a location to my Tweets’.
  • You can also delete all the previous location information by clicking the ‘Delete all location information’. (Optional)
Also make sure that you have geo-tagging feature disable in your smartphone because by default Twitter takes the location information from your smartphone and posts with your tweets. Different smartphones like iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Windows based smartphones have different settings. You need to disable this feature in your phone settings in each phone. Refer to your user manual for your smartphone geo-tagging options.
These settings together with setting up your account in a safe manner should provide you better security. What is important after setting up these settings is how you use your account. It is very important to be smart at identifying fake links that are often exchanged on Twitter.
Also note a few more security tips…
  • Such an example is of fake Twitter emails. You need to remember that Twitter will never ask you for your password via email. It is very common to receive emails from fake email IDs which look like they were sent by Twitter. Do not reply to such emails. Report such emails.
  • Stay away from clicking on links asking you to provide your email and password even though these pages might look like some familiar site.
  • Stay away from clicking on links that ask you join to play games with your friends or with other people online. You are the person responsible for your account safety as well.
  • Always make sure you have an anti-virus program installed and it is updated regularly.
 iii.     LinkedIn
Unlike Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn is a professional network. It is catered towards professional people interested in connecting with other professional people. It is the third most popular social networking site after Facebook and Twitter. The site came under heavy criticism recently when it lost millions of passwords in a security breach. After the incident all the LinkedIn users were notified to change their passwords in order to protect their accounts. Irrespective of whether such a thing happens again or not, you must always keep our account’s security as secure as possible. Here are some steps that can be taken to make your LinkedIn account safe.
Choose a good password
Always keep in mind that the first and foremost thing that spammers and hackers look for is your password. They try to obtain it either by sending you fake phishing emails or by decoding it by obtaining as much information about you as possible. So coming up with a hard to guess and hard to decode password is very necessary. Here are some tips:
  • Make the password complicated by using combination of numbers, symbols and characters.
  • Use characters in combination with certain personal things such as birthdays, phone numbers, etc. So that it is easy to remember as well.
  • If you have too many passwords to remember and can’t remember all of them, use software like KeePass Password Safe. It is an easy to use password manager and stores your passwords under a master password using secure encryption. It is also free to use.
  • Change your password every two months irrespective of whether your account is compromised or not.
It is very important to understand how your profile and the updates you put show up. Being a professional network, wrong profile settings can make you look bad among your connections and even to other people on LinkedIn. So you must know what others can see about you and how you can customize such settings. Privacy settings are the most important to be concerned about.
Setting up privacy settings
You can change certain privacy settings in LinkedIn. The site provides easy controls for these settings. We will now customize our privacy settings but first we need to know where such settings are:
  • On the top right corner, you will be able to see your name. Hover the arrow over your name, a dropdown menu should emerge. Click on settings in the menu.
Now you are on the page which displays your account type and other settings. There will a profile tab on the bottom menu. The privacy settings open up by default. You can start right away. Also note that each setting is self explanatory. We will provide you information on how each setting affects your profile and what settings are recommended.
Customizing privacy controls
Turn off your activity broadcasts                  
This option is used to display your activity on your profile page. If you change your profile picture or update your experience or education or add a new connection. It will show up as news feed on the right side to others who check your profile. LinkedIn itself gives good suggestions with each option of what setting to keep. If you don’t want others to check your activity, it is recommended to turn off the option.
Who can see your activity feed
It is one of the most important options to take care of when you are privacy-conscious. You can try to customize this setting according to your liking; if you don’t want people snooping in on your activity (such as your status updates, who you connect with, etc.), you can change this setting. By default LinkedIn keeps the setting on ‘Your connection’ which means only the people you have as your connections, can see your activity. You can even further restrict it to ‘Only you’ as well.
What others see when you’ve viewed their profile
LinkedIn notifies every user of who has checked their profile recently. If your account is searchable, any random person can look at your account and check some of your details. You can do the same and they will be similarly notified. But you can control what details they can see about you if you checked someone’s profile. If you don’t want people to know that it was you, you can select the option ‘You will be totally anonymous’ or you can select the other option which gives a vague idea that it was someone like you but not exactly your profile details.
Select who can see your connections
It is very important to protect your connections and friends on social networks. Among all social networks LinkedIn provides the best options for such settings. No one see other person’s connections unless it is a shared connection. Therefore you don’t have to worry much about this setting. You can even keep this setting at ‘Only you’ which means even your connections won’t be able to see your other connections.
Change your profile photo & visibility
This option lets you change your profile photo and also its visibility. If you don’t want random people on LinkedIn to see your photo, you can change the option which says ‘In addition to users I message, my photo is visible to…’ to ‘My Connections’. This will mean that only your connections can see your photo and for everyone else who is not connected to you will not be able to see your picture.
Now the other options that are left help you in changing your other settings which are not related to your privacy. So you can change them to your own liking. There are other options that can privatize your account more.
Email Preferences
Right below ‘Profile’ in the settings page, you can see the ‘Email Preferences’ button. Click on that and you will have more options. Note that these settings change the notifications from LinkedIn that you get in your Email. There are options here that affect your privacy:
Select who can send you invitations
By default this setting is set on ‘Anyone on LinkedIn’. So everyone registered on LinkedIn can send you invitations. You can keep it restricted by choosing the second or the third options.
Turn on/off partner InMail
Under ‘LinkedIn Communications’, you can see the last options which says ‘Turn on/off partner InMail’. LinkedIn collaborates with its business partners and helps them in marketing and hiring campaigns. If you don’t want LinkedIn to notify about such Emails, you can deselect both options under this setting. Save the settings and you won’t be notified of such notifications in your Email anymore.
Groups, Companies & Applications
Many people are not aware of how third party groups, companies and applications use their profiles. There are separate privacy settings for such options.
  • Under ‘Email Preferences’, click on the option that says ‘Groups, Companies and Applications’.
  • Under privacy controls, click on the option that says ‘Turn on/off data sharing with 3rd party applications’. 
By default LinkedIn shares your data with third party applications. So if you don’t want your data to be used with applications that you don’t know or don’t want to use, we recommend to deselect the option.
  • Uncheck the option that says ‘Yes, share my data with third party applications.
  • Click on ‘Save changes’
LinkedIn also tries to store information based on your interests. This helps the site to ‘improve the LinkedIn experience’. If you don’t want LinkedIn to store such information, you can change the setting.
  • Click on ‘Manage settings for LinkedIn plugins on third-party sites’.
  • Uncheck the box that says ‘Yes’
  • Click on ‘Save changes’.
This should improve your privacy and use of you data by third party applications, companies and groups.
There are some of the most important settings that people tend to ignore just because they are too lazy or they don’t know about them. These settings are under ‘Account’ settings right under the ‘Groups, Companies & Applications’ option.
When you click on account, you are provided with some options such as Privacy Controls, Settings, Email & Password, or even options that can help you close your account. These settings apply directly to your account only and do not involve any settings for third parties.
Privacy Controls
Managing Advertizing Preferences
If you don’t want ads on third party websites, you can change this setting.
  • Click on the option that says ‘Managing Advertizing Preferences’.
  • Uncheck the option that says ‘LinkedIn may show me ads on third-party websites’.
  • Save changes
Note that some settings are repeated here; therefore follow the same procedure as discussed already.
Manage Security Settings
This is the most important setting that everyone needs to take care of. This will help you use LinkedIn securely. Otherwise third party snooping can happen over account. This setting encrypts your communication with the LinkedIn server so that only you and the server know what your activity is.
  • Click on ‘Manage Security Settings’
  • Check the option that says ‘When possible, use a secure connection to browse LinkedIn.
  • Save changes

By default this option is not selected, so make sure you change this setting. But also note that you won’t be able to use any applications on LinkedIn, as this option protects your activity from every other party except the LinkedIn server, so no one else can use your data.

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