Andrea Smith | Mashable
By now, you know that running anti-virus software is essential for protecting your computer against spyware, phishing scams and unsafe websites. Even Mac users are aware that they too are vulnerable to malware. But did you know that you need to protect yourself from hidden dangers on social networks as well?
Not only are there viruses, trojans and worms in cyberspace, there are hackers looking for clues to your identity — clues that can be used to steal your passwords, similar to what happened to a journalist from Wired Magazine last month.
It’s called “social engineering,” and Carol Carpenter, executive vice-president and general manager for Trend Micro’s consumer division, says hackers are using social networks like Facebook to get personal information from you. Your maiden name or even your pet’s name could help hackers gain access to something important, like a bank account.
Trend Micro’s Titanium Internet Security 2013 is a software designed to protect against hidden dangers in the things people do online the most, including “checking email, surfing the web and using social networks to keep up with family and friends,” says Carpenter.
Social networking security is built into the antivirus software. It scans for potentially malicious links on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and even Pinterest. That way, you’ll know if the link associated with your friend’s status update about a new diet plan really is a scam site.
If the link on your Facebook page appears red, that means it’s malware or dangerous, and you shouldn’t click. Yellow means think twice or proceed with caution, and green means go, have a good time.
The software will also scan your privacy settings to let you know if you’ve unknowingly exposed yourself to any threats. For instance, a quick scan of my Facebook page let me know that all my posts are set to public by default; that’s alright with me since I accept subscribers. But many parents will want to know if their child’s settings aren’t set to ”friends only.”
The privacy scan gives advice on sharing practices, but Carpenter still recommends open communication between parents and children. Parents need to teach their kids good social etiquette, as well as safety, online — the same way they teach them how to carefully cross the street and not to talk to strangers.
Other parental options include Online Guardian, which monitors your kids’ behavior on social networks. There’s no need to friend them, but you can set an alert so that you’ll be notified if certain words, like “gun,” appear in any text.
There are other software options out there, but parents looking to keep an eye on their kids’ safety will find these tools easy to use and informative.
And they’d be right to keep watch. According to Trend Micro’s Annual Consumer Security survey of 1,000 computer users, 20% of consumers reported that while on a social networking site, they clicked a link that posted things to their wall that they didn’t want shared. What’s more, nearly half don’t change their privacy settings more frequently than every six months, and 35% infrequently or never check their privacy settings.
The survey also found that 60% of consumers share information — such as their birth date, hometown and pet names — on social networking sites that could lead to identity theft.
Check out the infographic below for more survey findings, and let us know what steps you take to protect your privacy online.