Keeping your family safe on social networks

Over Eight Hundred million people are on Facebook. That’s an amazing statistic. And along with Facebook, there are hundreds of other social networking sites used today that connect us in ways that were never even thought of a decade ago. But along with all the networking that we’re doing, there are precautions to take. Bottom line: It’s not all fun and games.

Chances are pretty good that you, or someone you know, are using Facebook to connect with friends and family.  There’s no doubt that it has proven to be a powerful tool used by millions. If you have kids, they are probably on it too.

 The company itself is reaping millions of dollars in advertising as it tracks the likes and the habits of people just like you and me.  How do they make money?  It’s pretty simple if you think about it. Let’s say you post a message to a friend saying that you just returned from a concert by guitarist  John Mayer and that you loved it. Maybe you also went to John Mayer’s Facebook page and clicked “Like”. What you’ve done, without even knowing it, is that you have informed the system about something personal about yourself.  The chance is very good that that sometime in the very near future you will see an advertisement or promotional item related to – you guessed it – John Mayer. 

So while Facebook is providing a vehicle for communication and networking for the entire family, it’s also a place where users can fall prey to all kinds of pranks, crimes, and scams.  A respected news source in Canada, CBC News, recently reported that computer-generated Facebook profiles were able to gather personal information such as birthdates, addresses, and phone numbers from literally thousands of unsuspecting Facebook users. The information gathered by these phony friends could’ve easily been used for malicious purposes including identity theft.  The research project, spearheaded by the University of British Columbia, was conducted to prove that automated criminal networks exist and are, in fact, “already at work on social networks such as Facebook.” The study clearly illustrates how easy it is for tech-savvy thieves to automate identify theft and other crimes against innocent people.

So how do we protect ourselves from spam, phishing, spyware, malware, and other threats that run rampant on social networking sites? For one, there is Norton Safe Web, an online service that lets know you how safe a particular Web site might be before you view it. It lets you search, surf, and shop safely and ensures that any site, even social networking sites, are free from malicious intent. A version called Norton Safe Web Lite is FREE to anyone who wants protection from unsafe Web sites and disreputable online merchants.

For specific Facebook safety, there is a service called Norton Safe Web for Facebook.  It’s quick and easy to set up, and it’s critical if you want to battle threats and suspicious links that can crop up on Facebook. Basically, the program scans your news feeds and identifies any risky links such as phishing sites, dangerous downloads, or unsafe external sites. All the scanning is done behind the scenes so you never know it’s running until you get a message that something might be wrong.

To get Norton Safe Web for Facebook working for you, it’s free and is as easy as requesting a new friend!  While logged into Facebook, type “Norton Safe Web” in the search field, and click on the Norton icon. The application may ask you to grant permission to access your wall and news feeds. When prompted, click “Allow”.  Once you enable the Auto-Scan feature, you’ll be able to confidently and securely use Facebook, knowing that you’ll be notified if Norton Safe Web detects a problem such as a potentially fraudulent website.  

If you frequent Facebook or other social networking sites, and you don’t have security from the dangers of the Internet, it’s time to get smart and stay protected.

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