Social media posts fraught with risks

A 2014 survey conducted by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International shows that 23% post information online

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Gulf News

Dubai: How prodigiously do you post on your online profile? The multitude of your personal photos and videos are potentially scrolled and scrutinised by strangers. The visibility of your personal information risks identity theft, blackmail and access to your bank accounts. Social media may have facilitated ease of communication but it may have also rendered your identity vulnerable for fraudsters to prey on.

“Anything that is posted online is theoretically visible to all,” Dr Fadi Aloul, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the American University of Sharjah, said, “it is a one-way bridge, even if information or media were posted in private profiles, groups, or even exclusively among friends. The possibilities of it going public are endless.”

A 2014 survey conducted by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International shows that 23 per cent of those surveyed post information online, which they normally wouldn’t disclose in real life, while almost every tenth user discusses private information with strangers.

“Most social media profiles contain personal information, such as a user’s address, telephone number or date of birth,” Aloul said. “These are questions a bank asks to verify a customer. The information can easily be used to impersonate a person and access their bank accounts.”

The Kaspersky survey shows that 26 per cent of UAE respondents enter their personal data while accessing a public Wi-Fi connection. However, only 20 per cent think they are revealing more information on social media sites than they ought to.

Aloul said that even ‘geotagging’ (a feature that tags pictures with location data) could be a threat.

“Most smartphones come with the function automatically enabled,” Aloul said, “The program embeds the location data onto the file. If a person sees that your latest picture was taken abroad, they could possibly find this an appropriate time window to rob your house. Famous figures are the most threated by this.”

Kaspersky Internet Security released an anti-phishing module designed for smartphones, which verifies that the visited websites are authentically certificated and to prevent users from falling victim to fraudsters. The devices are also protected from keyloggers (which intercept usernames and passwords) and Trojans (a type of malware program) attempting to steal a user’s credentials. The survey shows that 41 per cent of users in the UAE are sent suspicious messages asking them to follow a link or download a file. Furthermore, 25 per cent of users receive emails allegedly sent by a social network asking for their credentials.

Tahani Karrar-Lewsley, CEO and Founder of social media specialist company Menar Media, said that people should simply use common sense when uploading anything on their social media sites.

“I recommend that people post pictures, which they wouldn’t mind a stranger seeing it in the future,” Karrar-Lewsley said, “there have been cases where people have uploaded pictures of themselves drunk at a party and have jeopardised their jobs when a client or an employer saw them.”

Lewsley said it is up to the user to ensure the safety of their personal information.

“Facebook has privacy functions that allow users to set their preferences… They can have their content seen by the public, by friends, or there is even an Only Me function which restricts viewing to the person posting.”

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