As women, we believe it is important to share a blog series, focusing specifically on women’s cyber safety while they use the internet for social and commercial activities, highlighting the dangers of using this medium and providing tips to ensure online safety. This is the first part of the three-part blog series guiding women on social networking and the possible risks associated, providing a few precautionary steps to follow, though not exhaustive.
The internet to the modern women is akin to the purse she carries, indispensable. She uses the internet to interact with friends and family, shop and bank, in that order. A recent survey by comScore revealed that women dominate the usage of social networking sites and wield the social networking portals as an empowering tool to connect across boundaries and to successfully build e-commerce businesses.
Unfortunately the freedom of the internet also helps cyber criminals and online miscreants to connect with you quite easily. Social networking users should be vigilant about the kind of information they share online and the crowd with which they interact. Often women overlook the potential dangers of social networking sites. A simple socially engineered chat message with a malicious URL or a wall post of a “video link” especially of a cute baby/shopping offer could attract many victims to silently seed malware into their computer, as witnessed in the case of the Microsoft Windows worm Koobface. This allows hackers to either gather the user’s personal information or infect the computer.
With the stolen valuable information, miscreants can potentially cause distress to a user, especially to women and children.
One should also be keenly aware that photos shared on these social networking portals are viewable by even unintended audiences and can be morphed and redistributed without one’s consent. Young women tend to be the most likely targets of online harassment such as cyberbullying, trolling, stalking and death threats. This harassment gets even more dangerous if it manifests itself in real life. Even in the virtual world, targeted online harassment has the potential to cause severe mental trauma.
In order to curb such online threat issues, the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) educates internet users about safe surfing, helps the public report online abuse, and offers recovery procedures.
Here are some simple tips to make women more social networking wise:
- Never disclose sensitive information such as date of birth, location, phone number, address, etc.,
- Incorporate privacy and security settings offered on social networking sites
- Beware of clicking on links and opening messages from unknown sources
- Think twice about accepting requests to connect from strangers
- Secure your computer with a good antivirus solution
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