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How to avoid giving away company secrets on social networking

 

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Small businesses are increasingly under attack from dedicated hackers. The recent Symantec Internet Security Threat Report revealed that 50 percent of all businesses that came under targeted attack by online criminals had fewer than 2,500 employees and 31 percent had fewer than 250 employees.

 

Small businesses are gateways to big secrets

Hackers use social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter as well as company websites and other sources to find and target individuals in the companies they target.

 

They can use these services to build a profile of an individual and gather telling details that lend credibility to an attack. For example, they might find out where you went to university and hit you with an email from a ‘long-lost friend’ or they might find that you are connected to someone in a  larger company and send you a fake email from that person with a must-read report or special offer.

 

Only when it’s too later do you discover that these emails and attachments contain almost-undetectable spyware designed to infiltrate your systems and gather private data.

 

Protecting your privacy online

Sophisticated internet hackers aren’t the only threat. Competitors, head hunters and annoyingly persistent sales people can use the same social networking sites to put together a frighteningly accurate profile of you and your colleagues.

 

The Government’s Get Safe Online website gives detailed advice about protecting your identity when using social networking sites but basic common sense applies:

 

  • Don’t give away more information than you need to. For example, don’t publish your mobile phone number or the sort of information you might use to confirm your identity to a bank.
  • Understand and use privacy settings. Most sites give you detailed control over who can see your information but they have an interest in getting you to share as much as possible. Make sure you understand the settings and use them to keep your private information, well, private.
  • Use strong passwords. Weak passwords and poor password security led to Wired journalist Mat Honan to have his entire digital life hacked. You can avoid the risk by using strong passwords or, even better, two-factor authentication and password managers like 1password.
  • Use good security software. Protect yourself against malware and spyware with good, up-to-date antivirus software and by keeping your computer up to date with the latest updates and security patches.
  • Use your spider sense. Be on your guard. Watch out of implausibly attractive offers, enticing but unexpected email attachments, cold contacts from people you vaguely know etc. And train your employees and colleagues to keep themselves safe too.
  • Choose a more secure notebook. HP Business Notebooks come with HP ProtectTools software to help you protect yourself against common threats. Check out Ten essential security features on new HP notebooks.

 

For more on security on this blog: see 10 habits of highly-secure companies, The 10 most common security mistakes,

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About the Author
Matthew Stibbe is CEO at Articulate Marketing and TurbineHQ. He is an HP fanboy.
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