How To: Stay Safe On The Social Web

Avoid scams, theft and controversy as you navigate Web 2.0.

Stay Safe On The Social WebIf you’re a regular reader of the Edge, or any of GAWDA’s other publications, for the last year you’ve been reading a lot about social media and its benefits. The association, and the industry in general, has made the leap toward Web 2.0. In the last calendar year, GAWDA has launched GAWDAwiki, three Twitter accounts, three Facebook pages, two blogs, a YouTube page and a LinkedIn group that boasts nearly 200 members.

All over the industry, social media is becoming a fact of life. It’s changing for the better the way that the gases and welding world does business. However, as is the case with all Web-based technology, you can’t go about it carelessly. There are people that would like nothing more than to undermine your social media efforts and damage your online presence. In this article, you will find three basic social media vulnerabilities and how you can protect yourself and your company from them.

Protect Your Password
It seems like such a simple concept. Your password is the only thing standing between a hacker and your social media identity. Everyone knows that, right? While that’s probably true, the numbers indicate that most people don’t take the threat seriously.

A recent study by Impervia, entitled “Consumer Password Worst Practices,” revealed some shocking statistics about just how basic many people’s passwords have become. The study states that about 30 percent of users chose passwords with lengths at or below six characters. Also, 60 percent of users chose passwords from a small set of alpha-numeric characters. Furthermore, nearly 50 percent of users use names, slang words or dictionary words. These simple passwords are a hacker’s delight.

So how can you protect yourself and keep online identity thieves at large? The study offers several suggestions. They include:

  • Use at least 8 characters.
  • Use a mix of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and special characters.
  • Don’t use a name, slang word or any dictionary word.
  • Don’t use your name or part of your e-mail address.

Don’t Take the Bait
If you’ve been on Twitter or Facebook long enough, the odds are you have received a strange comment or a message from a friend, colleague or follower with a link attached. They often say things like “Hey, just uploaded some crazy pictures, check them out!” or “You’re never going to believe what happened last weekend.” These messages are generated by spammers using a process called “Phishing.” Phishing involves redirecting you to a Web site that looks like Facebook or Twitter and getting you to input your username and password. Once the spammers have that information, they will send similar messages to all of your contacts. With the price tag for some Twitter accounts measuring in the hundreds of dollars, it’s a lucrative business.

The damage done by phishing goes beyond spamming your contacts. In an interview with Welding and Gases Today, David Gewirtz, a cyber terrorism advisor to the International Association for Counterterrorism and Security Professionals, explains, “It’s very easy to download spyware or viruses if you click on the wrong link or download. Once one of these programs runs on your computer, it can do anything—capture credit card numbers, bank accounts, keystroke access—it runs the gamut right down to launching bots that attack other computers.”

So what can you do to protect yourself? First of all, don’t ever click a link from someone that you’re not completely sure of. Furthermore, if you get a link from someone that you DO trust, check with them to make sure it’s legit. Also, never under any circumstances should you enter your account information on any page that doesn’t begin with linkedin. com/, or

Watch What You Say
In addition to the hackers and phishers, there’s one more person who can get you or your company in trouble on the Web—you! As you traverse the social Web, remember two cardinal rules: There is no such thing as anonymity, and once you post something, it can’t be taken back. In his interview with WGT, Gewirtz explains “When communicating information online, don’t post anything that could potentially damage your employer or your employability: confidential information, company gossip, presenting your employer in a negative light—any of these posts could result in serious trouble.” Anything you say or do can be traced back to you and your employer. Even typing something in the heat of the moment, and deleting it minutes later, is dangerous. All it takes is one person to see the posting and take a screen cap, and then it’s there forever.

The social media world is robust and full of potential for you and your company. If you combine these tips with some basic common sense and a healthy skepticism of anything suspicious, you will be able to safely navigate the social Web and reap all of its benefits.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association