More than half of all social network users post information that puts them at risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime, according to a new study from Consumer Reports.
The publication’s “Annual State of the Net” report, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, also found that Americans have lost some $4.5 billion to cybercrime during the past two years, including replacing 2.1 million computers that have been compromised by malware.
The report based its findings on a survey of 2,000 online households conducted in January. Nine percent of social network users experienced some form of abuse within the past year, including malware infections, scams, identity theft or harassment.
Fifty-two percent of adult social network users have posted personal information that increases their risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime, the survey found. The numbers include those who have posted their full birth date (38 percent), photos of children (21 percent), children’s names (13 percent), home street address (8 percent) and even details of when they are not at home (3 percent).
The report, published in the June issue of Consumer Reports, cites seven things that users of Facebook and other social networks must stop doing immediately. They include:
1. Using a Weak Password:
The report suggests avoiding names or words that can be found in the dictionary. Use a random mix of at least eight upper and lower case letters and numbers;
2. Listing a Full Date of Birth:
Never list a full birth date (month, day and year). Only list a month and day – or none at all;
3. Overlooking Privacy Controls:
Facebook users can limit access for almost everything they post, but not everyone makes full use of these controls;
4. Posting a Child’s Name in a Caption:
Don’t use children’s names in photo tags or captions. If someone else does, delete it by clicking “Remove Tag.”
5. Mentioning being away from home: Doing so is like putting a “no one’s home” sign on your door, the report said. Be vague about vacation dates.
6. Being Found by a Search Engine:
To help prevent strangers from accessing a profile, go to the Search section of Facebook’s privacy controls and select “Only Friends for Facebook” search results. Be sure the “Public Search” isn’t checked.
7. Permitting Youngsters to Use Facebook Unsupervised:
Facebook limits membership to people ages 13 and older. If a young person is allowed to use Facebook, an adult in the same household should become an online friend and use their e-mail as the contact for the account in order to receive notification and to monitor activity.