Stay safe online

(ARA) – With millions of people using social networking sites on the internet, don’t be surprised if you find your co-worker on MySpace or your boss on Facebook. Social networking isn’t just for teens, adults are joining virtual communities in increasing numbers.

‘Internet social networking or blogging can be a really great thing,’ said Sue LaChance Porter, vice president of EarthLink, an internet service provider.

‘People can stay in touch, connect with friends and share their interests. But they also need to be cautious and protect their identity.’

Ms LaChance Porter offered these tips to increase privacy when using an internet social network:

Review each site’s privacy policy and their Frequently Asked Questions section so you can understand the features and privacy controls offered before deciding to join. Maybe you can use a Facebook account to connect with people about your personal hobbies and a LinkedIn account to keep in contact with work colleagues.

Some sites have options to restrict who can access your page, allowing you to keep your posted information public, private or restricted to a certain group of people.

‘Consider keeping your page private so strangers can’t openly access your information,’ said Ms LaChance Porter.

Use anonymous e-mail addresses when setting up social networking accounts.

Never post personal information on your page because many social networking sites are not encrypted. This means that information can sometimes be taken and used by unwanted sources, even if communicated via e-mail or posts.

Use strong passwords containing both letters and numbers that aren’t immediately associated with the person’s identity.

‘Try to keep passwords to five characters or more and change monthly to avoid password phishing, which is when outside sources steal your password and then post messages under your persona,’ said Ms LaChance Porter.

Instead of using your first and last name as your user name, using a pseudo name, like Julias 1880, helps protect your identity

Keep your computer protected with anti-virus and anti-spyware software to protect it from unwanted spam, viruses and other privacy breaches.

Post only what you want others to see so that not-so-subtle pictures of you are seen by future employers, colleagues or even the police. Any information or images you share could be seen by more people than you are comfortable with.

‘When online, trust your instincts,’ said Ms LaChance Porter.

‘If you’re not sure, it’s best to wait. You can always add information and photos later, but once images and data are floating around the Internet, you can’t get them back.’