The naive use of social networks can lead to emotional, financial and legal consequences and in some cases lead to the disclosure or propagation of your personal data. Kids and teens are already at risk on social networks, but adults, governments, banks, and even large Web businesses are not immune to risk.
Social networks are more popular than ever. Of the world’s 3.43 billion Internet users, 2.28 billion people (about one-third of the world’s population) regularly visit social networks (a rising trend). A platform that has the highest number of monthly clicks, Facebook is leading the pack and celebrates a double win among mobile users with its subsidiary WhatsApp.
Social networks are full of hackers, cybercriminals and data vendors. Facebook and company also contain other dangers that you should protect yourself from.
Social networks and their dangers: likes make addictive
Young people are particularly vulnerable to becoming dependent on the Internet: in a phase of life where social contacts with peers play an important role for self-esteem and identification, friends’ likes and demands lead to more and more time in front of his screen.
As with game addiction, the body releases endorphins and exaltation can only be felt for a fraction of a second, when the message alarm is flashing and announces possible messages from “friends” or promises a positive evaluation of his own message. However, as soon as the smartphone is out of sight for a while, many people begin to feel uncomfortable and afraid to miss important things.
Privacy and messaging: bullying in the digital age
While some people find their daily dose of happiness on the Internet, others must always prepare for the worst as soon as they connect to social networks: they are victims of cyber-bullying or harassment. Students who are ostracized in class are often victims of repeated abuse on the Internet.
This can even include threats of violence, slander or the publication of personal photos. Victims of harassment often face-threatening messages. By downloading publicly available photos and sharing upcoming events, many users make it much easier for potential followers to trap them.
Parents should talk to their children about the dangers of social media before allowing them to create an account. It is particularly important to consider the importance of privacy settings. The less personal data available to the public, the better. TrendMicro’s analysis of various sources has shown that offenders, in particular, use information about the school (61% of all users), hometown (48%) or vacation plans (26%) for harass or threaten people.
Facebook and the dangers of data sharing: misuse and dissemination of personal information
Moving on the Internet leaves traces. Anyone who makes his Facebook timeline public and feeds the Silicon Valley giant with information about his age, favorite music, passion for gaming, or favorite fashion brands on a daily basis leaves a digital footprint the size of Godzilla’s.
This is clearly stated in the terms and conditions of sale: Facebook not only has the rights to all the images you download on its platform but can also sell to its partner’s public profile data, that is to say practically a digital folder. However, many users do not see this as a problem: after all, a quarter of the users surveyed were happy to see personal advertising as a result of the data analysis. The search for consumer goods is thus at least facilitated.
However, everyone should be aware that storing and selling their own data always involves or increases the risk of them falling into the hands of criminals. In addition, end-users rarely have an overview of the path their data travels over the network. Even if you download an application, you often have the right to evaluate contact data and Internet connection details. It is this personal data that makes social media users interesting for businesses. By selling this data, it is sometimes possible to make money or at least to adapt the advertisement to the user.
However, personalized advertising is the use of personal data just as harmless. When the so-called “social engineers” get their hands on your data, the threat is usually much worse. They represent the modern form of crooks: social engineers deceive their victims in order to obtain their data or their money.
They use different methods: as a rule, they take a false identity in order to gain the trust of the potential victim. Either they present themselves as authorities (for example, by usurping the identity of a bank advisor), or they pretend to be a friend or relative. They do this, for example, by hacking accounts and writing to their contacts.
The Baiting is a particular variant of social engineering: supposedly free downloads providers recover data connection to your email account and have access to it. Quid Pro Quo is a method by which scammers claim to provide certain services or information when the user follows their instructions or previously discloses technical information.
Example: If the fraudster imitates a computer company that offers a quick fix to common bugs, he can ask the victim to disable the firewall and install an update. This update will actually be a virus or spyware.
The phishing attacks are based on fear and trust in the authorities. For example, many phishing emails are based on text and email design from reputable banks or service providers. They then refer to websites that also resemble those of respected institutions. If you enter your bank details, they will be sent directly to the cybercriminal. Another possibility is identity theft, where perpetrators do business or commit crimes under your name.
Damage to reputation: public content is visible to everyone, even the employer
Are you looking for a new job or have you just met the love of your life? Social media offers many opportunities to leave an impression on new contacts, both positive and negative. More than 75% of human resources managers use Facebook and other apps to get a first impression of the candidates. Those who appear publicly with pictures or messages that evoke or show illegal drugs or excessive alcohol consumption reduce their chances.
Similarly, hate messages, which are related to your own name, make a bad impression on you. However, not all social media missteps are always your fault. For masters or personal enemies, it’s easy to post reputational messages on the Net. The dangers of social media range from defamation to so-called porn of revenge.
Although platforms establish rules of conduct and generally employ moderators who delete these contents, they do not always respond quickly. The content of pictures or stormy messages can therefore initially spread uncontrollably. In such cases, victims can only be helped with as accurate documentation as possible about who has access to relevant data and from the police. Find out more about the diversity of social networks and how to maintain good customer contacts in our article on the main social media platforms.
Social networks as a tool of public relations: a bad organization endangers the image
Many companies use social networks to expand their reach and communicate with their customers. However, large institutions or companies often have a large number of accounts that need to be managed. If there is no social media manager who is responsible for the accuracy and timeliness of the content, it quickly creates a bad impression on the readers.
The lack of organization of one’s own content is one of the dangers of social media that many companies underestimate. The commentary space should not be left unmoderated: a discussion of insults has a deterrent effect on new readers. Even if officials do not intervene in cases of hate mail or threats of violence, it has a detrimental effect on the image. Especially when shitstorm occurs, scandals are inevitable.
Training and a social media policy, as well as limited access for some employees only, are the cornerstones of a successful Web presence. Legal protection is just as important. One of the biggest threats in social networks is hacking that falsifies content or distributes viruses to customers after taking possession of an account.
Phishing and redirection to malicious websites are also on the rise for cybercriminals. Depending on the type of attack, additional financial loss may occur, in addition to the damage to reputation.
In summary: what steps to take?
Social networks carry dangers that can have profound consequences. However, a certain skepticism avoids most of the pitfalls. In addition, the following measures are often already useful:
- Define your privacy so that only your friends can access it if possible.
- Avoid the display of personal data, vacation plans, and personal information.
- Do not accept requests or messages from other
- Avoid clicking a shortened URL.
- Report suspicious or insulating/threatening accounts.
- Private accounts and strictly separate business accounts.
- Social media training for employees, especially in the field of data security.