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09 February 2010, 12:10

EU security agency advises caution when using social networks

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ENISA Logo Given the rapidly growing proliferation of social networks, such as Facebook and MySpace, and their increasing mobile usage, the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) has published a report that warns of the risks of using such mobile social networking services. The report details a number of threats that may affect the reputation and privacy of an individual, including identity theft, malware and corporate data leakage. The ENSIA document also lists a number of "safety tips", which its authors call the "17 golden rules for mobile social networks".

For example, the security agency advises social networking users to use a pseudonym that their friends and family will know, and not to accept friend requests from people that they do not know. Other tips include always logging out of your account after each session and not allowing your browser, application, or the site itself to remember your credentials, such as your user name and password. Additionally, users should not use company email addresses or mix business contacts with the personal contact details of their friends or family. If a mobile phone is lost or stolen that contains contact information, pictures or other personal details, it should be reported immediately. Finally, users should always remember to set their profile privacy level properly, making sure to disable any services that could track your activity or location.

According to ENISA, more than 211 million people use social networking services in Europe alone and 11 out of 17 countries studied primarily use Facebook. Based on its findings, more than 65 million people now access Facebook via their mobile devices and that number is expected to climb to 134 million in Europe by 2012. The security agency says that many of mobile social network users "also use their phone as a backup device for business mails, personal data, contacts, pictures, and access codes" and that, if lost or stolen, the information contained in these mobile devices can cause serious damage, yet most users are not even aware of the risks.

The full 49-page report, titled "Online as soon as it happens"PDF, is available to download from the agency's site.

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