Social networks pose security issues

As more of us start using social-networking sites, there are more security issues to consider than ever before.

As more of us start using social-networking sites, there are more security issues to consider than ever before.

For most of us, when we talk about “social networking,” we are talking about Facebook.

Much has been written about the stupidity of posting anything on Facebook (and, therefore, the Internet) that you don’t want on there forever. (Literally forever. Really. Forever. Even if you delete it in a few days.) I guess it is worth touching on that for a moment. If you use Facebook, take a moment to check your privacy settings and see who you are allowing to see what. Do you want only your friends to see your stuff? The friends of friends? (That could be thousands of people you don’t know.)

Now the bad stuff.

Have you seen people with the “dislike” button on their page? Wondering why they have one and you don’t? Because you are smarter than they are, or at least better at reading the fine print. There is no such thing as a “dislike” button on Facebook, and those who have installed it have compromised the security of their page and data and are spamming all their “friends.”

“The app will trick you into giving a rogue Facebook application permission to access your profile, posting spam messages from your account and asking you to complete an online survey,” says security expert Graham Cluley of Sophos. “If you do give the app permission to run, it silently updates your Facebook status to promote the link that tricked you in the first place, thus spreading the message virally to your Facebook friends and online contacts.”

Same thing with the “FREE IPAD” spam that is floating around. (If it sounds too good to be true, it is.)

Another one that has been making the Facebook rounds is an application that promises to allow you to see who has viewed your profile if you only click and install it. Accompanying it is a list of boasting comments from all of your friends who have installed it, too.

Trouble is, it also does not work and just exposes you to a bunch of ads and spam.

It would be a violation of Facebook’s terms of service to tell you anything about the viewing habits of its users, so you will never see any application that tells you who has visited your page. However, like the “dislike” button, it is a much-sought-after feature of Facebook, so many people fall for it and install it.

The lesson here is to read the fine print when you install anything on Facebook. Do not just hit “NEXT.” Many times you are giving the application the right to your data and the right to expose it widely. In most cases, the application will explain exactly what it is going to do, but most people don’t bother to read the impact.

Just slow down and read.

James Derk is owner of CyberDads, a computer-repair firm His email address is jim@cyberdads.com

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