Social networking through Web sites such as Facebook has become a popular way to communicate with friends, and it is no longer just college students who are taking advantage of the services offered by these sites.
The explosion of online social networking sites, however, has also exposed users to new identity theft risks, Director of Information Security Gary Dobbins said.
“There are a lot of people who would like to find out what your password is, find out more about you in order to use those things to impersonate you,” he said. “There are a dozen different things you should be aware of when using social networking tools like Facebook.”
To help combat the risks posed by social networking, the Office of Information Technology (OIT) has launched a new campaign that encourages Notre Dame faculty, staff and students to not “be a victim of social networking,” OIT organizational communications analyst Lenette Votava said.
“We’re going to have posters going up with social network precautions people can take so that they stay safe and they are aware of what can happen to them,” she said.
Votava said one of the simplest ways to reduce one’s risk is to limit the personal information one posts on the Web site.
“We just found that people were … putting a lot of their information up on Facebook and [other sites],” she said. “A lot of people like to steal others’ identities and this is how they get a lot of their information.”
Votava said social network users need to be aware pictures and other content posted to a Web site like Facebook are public.
“If you go out and party hardy one night, do you necessarily want people who you are going to be interviewing with the next day or the next week viewing those pictures?” she said.
Dobbins said social networks are very public, and it is important to take advantage of privacy setting to restrict what the world can see.
“The mistake a lot of people make is that only their friends are going to bother looking at their stuff online, so they put everything up there about themselves as if they were telling only their friends,” he said. “Unless they take advantage of the privacy settings, it’s not just their friends who will look at that stuff.”
Dobbins also said it is important to remember that some applications such as Facebook games could allow potential identity thieves to access sensitive information.
“Every one of those games that you join on Facebook … we have no idea who wrote that application and now knows everything your friends know about you,” he said. “Do you really want to give a complete stranger knowledge of things you would only share with your friends?”
Dobbins did not recommend students stop using social networking sites, which he called “a great tool.”
“It’s a great medium for interacting, especially when you’re in a place where you cannot reach everybody, but do it carefully,” he said.
Votava said she hopes the awareness campaign will achieve a “reduction in people coming to us reporting that they had some type of problem or that someone is using their personal information.”