Creating Safe Space on Social Networking Sites
Social networking sites are known as hangouts for online teenage gossip. But as these sites develop in number and variety, they are growing increasingly popular among computer users of all ages, and are prime targets for online crime.
According to a recent study by CA and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), nearly half of those using social networking sites are adults, half of them over the age of 35.
A quick search shows the vast array of choices available: from Decayenne (a community for young adults of "high social standing") to Vampire Freaks.com (a community for the "gothic-industrial culture") to Eons (the "first site to target the 50-100 age group").
One of the most popular websites on the Internet, MySpace, reportedly weighs in with over 100 million accounts, and 230,000 new registrations per day.
With those statistics, it is no wonder that all the major online vendors (Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, MSN, and AOL) are pursuing online social networks.
Still, the security threats produced from these sites have been raising red flags across the board.
"As social networking use continues to increase in popularity, it is imperative that people take steps to safeguard their information at home and at work," said David Luft, CA senior vice president of Product Development, in a recent SecurityProNews article.
As far as children and teenagers are concerned, this means educating them to be aware of the dangers that may be lurking online. Legislative action is also beginning to take shape.
If enacted into law, the Deleting Online Predators Act would prohibit U.S. schools and libraries that receive federal funds from providing access to commercial social networking sites and chat rooms.
Preventative measures that adults can take include being cautious about the personal information that they make accessible, being careful of what they download, and using security software.
According to an August report from the web security company ScanSafe, up to one out of every 600 profile pages on social networking sites host some form of malware.
Internet companies have begun using tighter privacy controls in order to allow people to keep communicating online, without fear of giving out personal information.
Six Apart, producer of the social networking and blogging site, LiveJournal, has a new web publishing system, Vox, which allows users to control who has access to their messages and pictures.
"Obscurity isn't enough," said Mena Trott, co-founder of Six Apart, in a recent Reuters article. "You need to have the features to say, 'I only want these (specific) people to see this'."