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The dark side of social networking

Pretoria - Users of social networks need to maintain their vigilance and remain aware of the consequences of putting information out into cyberspace as the dark side of social networking continues to rear its ugly head.

Participants at a workshop on the “Dark Side of Social Networking Sites” on Wednesday agreed that although the ideals of privacy could well be dead and gone, there were mechanisms in place that could be used to keep information from prying eyes.

Among the mitigating strategies discussed included locking one's profile and site, using all security features possible to confirm information got only to those it was intended to reach, and putting out as little detail about oneself as possible. Credit: AP

The workshop, held at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), looked at the most common attack vectors found in cyberspace and looked at ways to mitigate them.

Participants in the session also analysed ways in which people became easy targets for cyber attacks. CSIR technical researcher and session facilitator Aubrey Labuschagne said vectors included the evil twin attack, phishing, malware, cyber bullying, physical and social engineering.

They involved accessing information from, mainly, Facebook by creating duplicate profiles and encouraging “contacts” to share information; inviting users to install applications on their cellphones or computers, allowing information stored there to be accessible; and inviting people to share information through surveys and e-mails, with questions on personal information being sneaked in.

According to Labuschagne, cyber bullying was the worst of the evils because it targeted mainly children, who were not mature enough to handle the attacks psychologically.

This was why it led to so many suicides, he said.

A debate on privacy concluded that little, if any, remained in society. The presence of cameras everywhere – from malls, parking lots, and supermarket aisles to roads – was a double-edged sword.

“Cameras in malls capture information vital in the event of a crime, can spot a child-kidnapper and provide information for marketing, but because they are hidden, who is to say there are none in fitting rooms in shops?” Labuschagne said.

Among the mitigating strategies discussed included locking one’s profile and site, using all security features possible to confirm information got only to those it was intended to reach, and putting out as little detail about oneself as possible.

The need to use old methods to protect children against cyber bullying and other forms of attacks were also highlighted.

Participants agreed that parents and guardians had the primary responsibility to empower children against emotional attacks and to make them strong enough to withstand and talk about situations rather than resorting to suicide.

“There is no more privacy, no more anonymity,” Labuschagne said.

“No one can remain faceless with the technology that exists today.”

Too many people remained oblivious to the dangers lurking on the digital platform, said Labuschagne.

Forums like Wednesday’s workshop were aimed at bringing them on board. - Pretoria News

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