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7 Security Secrets of Social Networking

On the surface, social networking is like a worldwide cocktail party—full of new friends, fascinating places and tasty apps. Resisting the urge to drink from the endless fountain of information is nearly impossible because everyone else is doing it—connecting is often advantageous for professional reasons, it’s trendy and, unchecked, it can be dangerous.

Beneath the surface of the social networking cocktail party lives a painful data-exposure hangover for the average business. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are now the preferred tool for malware delivery, phishing, and “friends-in-distress” scams while more business oriented sites, like LinkedIn, allow for easy corporate espionage and the manipulation of your employees.

To avoid the cocktail party altogether is both impractical and naïve—the benefits of social networking outweigh the dangers—but applying discretion and wisdom to your social strategy makes for smart business. Follow these 7 Security Secrets of Social Networking to begin locking down your sensitive data.

  1. On social networks, possession is ten-tenths of the law.When you put your business’s information on a social network, you have forfeited your exclusive right to that information. Unlike a physical asset, information can be simultaneously recreated, stored and accessed by unlimited users at any one time, allowing it to flow like water through your fingers. Additionally, there are very few laws governing the ownership of information once it leaves your office (e.g., goes into the cloud), leaving you no legal precedence for winning back your privacy. On a personal level, for example, when you populate your Facebook profile with a birthdate, it is sold to advertisers along with your demographics, “Likes” and a map of your friend network. Similarly, in the business world, the minute you establish a Facebook page and begin to attract “fans” or a Twitter page for followers, you’ve just centralized and publicized your customer list for competitors. Solution: Create a strategic plan before you expose your intellectual property. Prior to going live with a corporate social networking profile or sharing your next post, think through how much sensitive information you are sharing, and with whom. Unlike a traditional website, social networks connect human beings, some of whom want to map your organizational structure, track your marketing initiatives, hire your star employees, breach your systems, poach your fan list or steal sensitive intellectual capital. It is imperative that you: 1. Create a strategic social networking plan that 2. Defines what information can and should be shared by executives and employees on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. 3. Consider using social media to attract new prospects rather than creating a following of existing (and poachable) clients. 4. Populate your profile with only publicly available, marketing-based data. 5. Keep personal comments for personal pages, as they have no place at work. 6. Don’t rely on a policy to communicate your intentions and requirements surrounding social media. The most successful companies build a culture of privacy through an interactive process that allows the entire team to co-create a solution.
  2. Lack of education, not technology, is the greatest source of risk. It’s easy to blame our data privacy woes on technology. At the heart of every security failure (technological or otherwise), is a poor human decision, generally due to a lack of awareness. For instance, an employee, not a machine, decides to spend their lunch break using their work computer to post on personal social networking sites. In many cases, they do so because the business has not established guidelines for these scenarios, nor have they educated them on the risks. For example, most employees don’t understand that more than 30% of all malware is delivered to corporate computers via social spam through personalsocial networking use conducted on work computers. Solution: Educate your team as individuals first, employees second. The most effective way to change a human being is to appeal to them emotionally, not intellectually. Most of us are more emotionally connected to our personal lives than to our jobs. Consequently, by motivating your employees to protect their own social networking profiles first (and their kids’), you are not only lowering the malware and fraud that they introduce into your computers through lunchtime surfing, you are also giving them the framework and language to protect the company’s social networking efforts. Be sure to: 1. Break the training down into bite-sized, single topic morsels that won’t overwhelm or discourage employees. 2. Allow employees to spend a few moments applying the fixes you’ve just given them. 3. Once they’ve made the changes personally, reconvene and discuss what it all has to do with your organization’s social networking strategy. They will return to the learning table with emotional buy-in and awareness. Strategies Three and Five (below) are examples of this bite-sized, personal to professional adaptation process.
  3. Most social networking risks are old scams with new twists.During a lunch break at work, you receive a Facebook post that seems like it’s from a friend. It’s impossible not to click, enticing you with captions like, “check out what our old high school friend does for a living now!” Seemingly harmless, you click on a video, a coupon, or a link to win a FREE iPad and presto, you’ve just infected your computer with malware that allows cyber thieves full access into your company network. You’ve been tricked by a repackaged version of the virus-delivering-spam-emails of five years ago. Spam has officially moved into the world of social media (thus, social spam), and is now responsible for 30% of all viruses, spyware and botnets that infect our computers. Solution: Discuss social spam self defense at your next team meeting. It’s amazing how quickly people detect social spam once they’ve been warned! After all, they’ve seen it all before disguised in other forms. In addition to giving employees visual examples of social spam, click-jacking and like-jacking, make sure that they are equipped with the following knowledge: 1. If an offer in a social networking post is too enticing, too good to be true, too bad to be real or just doesn’t feel right, don’t click! 2. If you do click and aren’t taken directly to the site you expected, make sure you never click a second time, as this gives cyber thieves the ability to download malware onto your system. 3. Deny social media account takeover by using strong alphanumeric passwords that are different for every site and that you change frequently. 4. Account takeover is easy for criminals, which means that not all “friends” are who they say they are. If you suspect foul play, call your contact and verify their post. 5. Make sure that you protect your business with the latest cyber security and anti-theft prevention tools available. I will discuss these in the next strategy.
  4. Cyber thieves follow the path of least resistance by looking for open doors. Data thieves aren’t interested in delivering malware to just anybusiness (using social networking as their primary delivery device); they specifically target organizations that have done the least to protect their computers, networks, mobile devices, Wi-Fi and Internet connection. Why burgle a house with deadbolts and an alarm when you can attack the home down the street that left the front door wide open? In business, the “open door” usually comes in the form of poor computer security. Solution: Create a Path of Strategically Elevated Resistance. Thieves get discouraged (and move on to other victims) when you put roadblocks in their way. Keeping your network security up-to-date is the smartest way to quickly and effectively elevate your defenses against cybercrime. Follow these simple steps: 1. Hire a professional to conduct a security assessment on your network; the investment will pay for itself hundreds of times over. During the assessment and follow-up process, make sure that the IT professional: 2. Installs a security suite like McAfee on every computer, including mobile devices that travel, 3. Sets up your operating system and critical software for automatic security updates, 4. Enables and configures a firewall to block incoming cyber criminals, and 5. Configures your Wi-Fi network with WPA2+ encryption. To cover all of your bases, make sure that 6. You are prepared for a breach if it does happen. Deluxe, in partnership with EZShield, provides state-of-the-art identity protection and recovery services for businesses. It’s like health insurance for your information assets.
  5. Data criminals systematically exploit our defaults. Another way to create a path of strategically elevated resistance is to take away the “broadcast” nature of social networking exploited by thieves and competitors. Instead of inviting everyone to your cocktail party, only allow people you know and trust. When users set up a new social networking profile, the tendency is to accept the “default” account settings. For example, when you establish a Facebook account, by default, your name, birthdate, photo, hometown, friend list and every post you makeare available to more than one billion people. Solution: Change your defaults! It only takes minutes to modify every Privacy and Security setting offered by a social network. On a personal level, 1. Consider limiting who can view your hometown, friend list, family, religious affiliation and interests to Friends Only or even Only Me and 2. Disallow Google to index and share your profile on its search engine. Businesses will want to 3. Leave the indexing feature On to maximize search engine traffic. 4. Post updates to categories of friends (friend groups), not to the entire world. This isn’t only safer personally, it also makes for more targeted and appreciated customer service. 5. Make sure to update your defaults regularly, as social networking sites tend to make frequent changes. Many businesses with Facebook Fan Pages, for example, have not updated their profile in accordance with Timeline, meaning that their page is outdated and unprofessional.
  6. Social engineers mine social networks to build trust and exert influence. The greatest social networking threat inside of your organization isn’t malware or information scraping. Your greatest risk comes from a data spy’s ability to get to know youand your co-workers through your online footprint. Social engineering is the art of manipulating data out of you using emotional triggers such as similarity, likeability, fear of offending, authority, etc. A social engineer’s greatest tool of deception is to gain your trust, which is easy once they know your likes, friends and updates that you publish daily. After a month or so of cultivating what appears to be a legitimate relationship, social engineers begin to manipulate you for information. Solution: Verify, then trust. In the information economy, where data is quite literally currency, you must verify someone’s intentions and credibility before you begin to trust them. Here’s how: 1. Don’t befriend strangers; your ego wins, but you lose. 2. Before you accept a second-hand friend, verify that your existing network actually knows and trusts that person. Too many users accept friends indiscriminately, so you need to investigate their credibility before you hit the Accept button. 3. Don’t believe everything you read on social networking sites. In fact, don’t believe anything of substance until you verify it with reputable, primary sources like a national newspaper, ethical blogger or noted expert. 4. Never send money to a friend in need, download an entertaining app or give away sensitive information via social networking unless you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the request is legitimate and that your communication is private and secure.
  7. In social networking, there are no secrets. The title of this paper was intentional – people want exclusive access to knowledge that others don’t have. We all want to know the secret, and I used that human desire in a gentle form of social engineering to get you to read the article. But in social networking, there are no secrets. The instant you hit the post button, your information becomes public, permanent and exploitable. It’s public because you have little control over how it is forwarded, accessed by others or subpoenaed by law enforcement. In the blink of an eye, your information is backed up, re-tweeted and shared with strangers. Digital DNA has no half-life; it never disappears. And as you’ve seen above, it can be used against you. Solution: Don’t just read, act! Reading is not enough; you must act on what you have read: 1. Revisit the information you over-share on your social networking profiles and remove it. 2. Modify your account privacy and security defaults so that you share only with the people you trust. 3. Educate your team from a personal perspective first and then apply it to your organization’s needs. 4. Strategically elevate your defenses by securing your computer network with software like McAfee, and recovery services like EZShield. 5. Research advanced fraud and social engineering tactics to protect yourself and your company.

Every company I’ve consulted to that has experienced a data breach wishes that they could “go back in time”. Why? Because recovery is often 10-100 times more expensive than prevention, and because data breach causes customer flight, bad press and depreciated value. Companies that prepare for the coming onslaught of social networking fraud will escape relatively unaffected. Businesses that are unprepared will suffer extensively. According to the Ponemon Institute, the average cost to a business of any size that experiences a data breach is $7.2 million, which explains why so many small businesses go bankrupt after a data loss event, as they are unable to pay the recovery costs. That gives you 7.2 million reasons pay attention.

John Sileo is an award-winning author and international speaker on the dark art of deception (identity theft, data privacy, social media manipulation) and its polar opposite, the powerful use of trust, to achieve success. He is CEO of The Sileo Group, which advises teams on how to multiply performance by building a culture of deep trust. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, the FDIC, and Homeland Security. Sample his Keynote Presentation or watch him on Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes or Fox Business. 1.800.258.8076.

5 Steps to Avoid Facebook Destruction in Business

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How should my business balance the risks of social media with the rewards of this increasingly dominant and highly profitable marketing medium? That’s the very insightful question that a CEO asked me during a presentation I gave on information leadership for a Vistage CEO conference.

Think of your move into social media (Facebook/Fan/Business Pages, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) like you would approach the task of helping your fifteen-year-old daughter prepare to drive on her own. You love her more than anything on earth and would do anything for her (just like you will go to great lengths grow your business), but that doesn’t mean you just hand her the keys. Trying to forbid or ignore the movement into social marketing is like telling your teen that they can’t get their license. It isn’t going to happen, so you might consider putting down the denial and controlling those pieces of change that are within your power. The task is to maximize the positives of her newly bestowed freedom while minimizing any negatives; the same is true in social media.

Here’s a simple plan to follow that will help keep you safe and productive:

  1. Understand the Risks & Rewards. Just like you need to know the risks of a teen driving (peer pressure, alcohol, inexperience, inferior equipment), you need to fully understand the risks of operating this powerful piece of equipment we call social media or social networking. Privacy Concerns: Users who fail to customize their Facebook privacy, security and sharing settings are giving away massive amounts of information to other Facebook users, Facebook Vendors (e.g., Farmville), Facebook itself and potentially competitors, thieves and social engineers. Over Exposure: You can share too much on Facebook, including posts, photos and videos that you later regret uploading. If done improperly or without thought, this can lead to increased risk of identity theft, reputation hijacking, burglary or fraud. Reputation Damage: AFLAC fired comedian Gilbert Godfrey as their spokesperson for making a negative comment about the insurance giant on his wall. How you and your employees use social media directly influences your reputation.  Account Takeover: Imagine a pornography crime-ring taking over your fan page for a day. It’s usually not this extreme of a case, but accounts are constantly being compromised and used for nefarious and illegal purposes (sending SPAM, peddling pornography, covering crimes). Just because there are risks doesn’t mean you abandon the medium. It means that you prepare for them, just like training your daughter to drive defensively, break properly on ice and make smart choices about who gets in the car.
  2. Define Your Destination. Many businesses that utilize social media don’t actually know why they are using it, other than it’s the thing to do. But using it effectively takes a huge time and knowledge investment, so make sure you define what you want to achieve before you invest. Are you there to make friends, to network, to increase visibility, reshape your reputation or improve customer service? Driving without a destination in mind might be fun, but it will ultimately get you nowhere.
  3. Choose the Right Equipment. Once you have defined your objective, you will have a better idea of which social medium to use (Facebook, Fan Page, Twitter, etc.). If your objective is to get your daughter safely from one place to another, you will choose a very different car than if you are trying to enhance her image with friends by buying a sports car. Trying to be part of every last social network means that you will use none of them effectively. Choose one or two platforms and take the time to perform the final two steps.
  4. Fasten Your Seat belt. An hour spent understanding and modifying the default privacy and security settings (which are very lax by default) on Facebook or another social site can save you and your organization tragic amounts of data loss and abuse. Our refusal as a society to take this simple, available step to protect our information is the equivalent of not fastening our seat belts while driving. Is it slightly inconvenient and a occasionally uncomfortable? Yes. Does it drastically increase your safety? Without question. With great power comes great responsibility, and we must start communicating that to others around us.
  5. Educate Your Driver. This knowledge, from awareness to customization, is only effective if it is passed on to others. You might know how to drive safely, but that doesn’t mean your daughter has picked it up by osmosis. The same is true inside of your organization; it’s not good enough for you do drive safely, the other members of the team must do the same – and not just for their own good, but because it also helps you be safe. After all, just like your daughter will ride in another teen’s car (and you want them to be well trained), your contacts will be handling your data in a social context (think of the picture of you at a St. Patrick’s Day party they consider posting) and need to know how to treat it.

There is nothing gained by ignoring or denying this social movement. It won’t be stopped and you will be part of it, either directly or indirectly. In turn, your business will be affected by how the employees and executives approach and even leverage the energy of social media. If you’re not out there educating your drivers, they are off doing it on their own anyway, seat belt-less and clueless.

John Sileo trains organizations on information leadership, including social media control, identity theft prevention and reputation management. His satisfied clients include the Department of Defense, FDIC, Pfizer and Homeland Security. To bring John in to speak to your organization, contact his staff on 800.258.8076 or watch him entertain audiences with vital content at www.ThinkLikeASpy.com.

Facebook Safety Tips to Stop Social Networking Hangovers

Social NetworkingFacebook safety has a direct correlation to your business’s bottom line.

Facebook, and social networking sites in general, are in an awkward stage between infancy and adulthood – mature in some ways, helpless in others. On the darker side of sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, scammers and identity thieves are drooling at the sight of this unchecked data playground. In contrast, most social networkers are addicted to all of the friendships they are creating and renewing.

There is no denying that Facebook and other social networking sites have a very luring appeal.  You can sit in the comfort of your own home and suddenly have a thriving social life.  You can look up old friends, make new ones, build business relationships and create a profile for yourself that highlights only your talents and adventures while conveniently leaving out all your flaws and troubles.  It is easy to see why Facebook has acquired over 200 million users worldwide in just over five years. Which is why Facebook safety is still so immature: Facebook’s interface and functionality has grown faster than security can keep up.

Unfortunately, most people dive head first into this world of social connectedness without thinking through the ramifications of all the personal information that is now traveling at warp speed through cyberspace.  It’s like being served a delicious new drink at a party, one that you can’t possibly resist because it is so fun and tempting and EVERYONE is having one.  The downside? Nobody is thinking about the information hangover that comes from over-indulgence: what you put on the Internet STAYS on the internet, forever. And sometimes it shows up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, in the hands of a prospective employer or your boss’s inbox. All of the personal information that is being posted on profiles — names, birth dates, kids’ names, photographs, pet’s names (and other password reminders), addresses, opinions on your company, your friends and your enemies — all of it serves as a one-stop shop for identity thieves.  It’s all right there in one neat little package and all a scammer has to do to access it is become your “friend”.

Follow these Five Facebook Safety Tips and save yourself the trouble…

5 Facebook Safety Tips

Facebook Safety Tip #1: If they’re not your friend, don’t pretend. Don’t accept friend requests unless you absolutely know who they are and that you would associate with them in person, just like real friends.

Facebook Safety Tip #2: Post only what you want made public. Be cautious about the personal information that you post on any social media site, as there is every chance in the world that it will spread beyond your original submission.  It may be fun to think that an old flame can contact you, but now scammers and thieves are clambering to access that personal information as well.

Facebook Safety Tip #3: Manage your privacy settings. Sixty percent of social network users are unaware of their default privacy settings. Facebook actually does a good job of explaining how to lock your privacy down (even if they don’t set up your account with good privacy settings by default). To make it easy for you, follow these steps:

  1. Spend 10 minutes reading the Facebook Privacy Policy. This is an education in social networking privacy issues. Once you have read through a privacy policy, you will never view your private information in the same way. At the point the privacy policy is putting you to sleep, move on to Step 2.
  2. Visit the Facebook Privacy Help Page. This explains how to minimize all of the possible personal information leakage that you just read about in the privacy policy. Once you understand this on one social networking site, it becomes second nature on most of the others. 
  3. Now it is time to customize your Facebook Privacy Settings so that only information you want shared, IS shared. This simple step will reduce your risk of identity theft dramatically.

Facebook Safety Tip #4: Keep Google Out. Unless you want all of your personal information indexed by Google and other search engines, restrict your profile so that it is not visible to these data-mining experts.

Facebook Safety Tip #5: Don’t unthinkingly respond to Friends in Distress. If you receive a post requesting money to help a friend out, do the smart thing and call them in person. Friend in Distress schemes are when a thief takes over someone else’s account and then makes a plea for financial help to all of your friends (who think that the post is coming from you). As with all matters of identity, verify the source.

Following these 5 Facebook Safety tips are a great way to prevent an information-sharing hangover.

The best way to protect you and your children from Online threats is to educate yourself about Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other online social networking utilities.  We recently published the Facebook Safety Survival Guide (with Parents’ Guide to Online Safety) with that exact goal in mind. Social networking is immensely powerful and is here for the long run, but we must learn to harness and control it.

John Sileo is the award-winning author of Stolen Lives, Privacy Means Profit and the Facebook Safety Survival Guide. His professional speaking clients include the Department of Defense, the FTC, FDIC, Pfizer, Prudential and hundreds of other organizations that care about their information privacy. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

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