I could trash these notions up and down but I really don't have the time. So instead, if you honestly kid yourself with any of the following excuses:
- "I have nothing to hide!"
- "I won't be targeted!"
- "I trust 'them' with my personal information!"
Did I say wrong enough times?
What's more, your action (or worse yet, inaction) will have an impact on how information is used, global notions of privacy and furthermore, you may indirectly compromise your workplace, your colleagues, co-workers, friends or family.
What makes social networking a far greater threat than old fashioned social networking is that it compounds the problem on multiple levels.
Information that was previously hard to come by (i.e. had to be acquired by being physically present or knowing certain individuals) can be now mined, remotely or privately. Websites such as pipl.com or tools like Maltego have shown the very real threat that remnant traces of data on the Internet can reveal. We can see data in aggregate. And the aggregation of data compounds the risks as the sum is greater than its parts.
Social networking allows data to determine subject-object relationships. Context is revealed. So we know that Jarrod likes Mixed Martial Arts and that Ultimate Fighting Champsionship is an MMA event. So it would stand to reason that Jarrod would like to hear about the UFC. This is the value of data and relationships. This is the worldly view that Google and Facebook are trying to build. But sometimes these relationships can have unexpected consequences.
E.g. An attacker finds out you work at XYZ Company in the Payroll area (LinkedIn) and you like going out to concerts and are a fan of Pink (Facebook). Searching on your email address which you have listed as public (pipl.com) reveals your blog and some very compromising pictures. Or maybe just a rant about how much you hate your boss. Or to distribute a finely crafted piece of malware which purpotes to be Pink playing live in your hometown with hopes of compromising your work machine...
Social relationships are important and I don't want to say "don't use social networking" but we need to be mindful of the information we are sharing isn't "just to our friends". We're sharing it with third parties that we have trusted and sometimes, that trust is misplaced, taken for granted (Google/Buzz) or just outright abused (Facebook).
Locking down your profile doesn't always solve the problem because these companies can still share it with third parties or use it internally at whim (Google), they can still hold the data indefinitely (Facebook), or be riddled with security holes. To such a degree that even if you do the right thing, share the minimal amount required and lock down your privacy settings, etc, that you can be hit by those people you have as 'friends' because of their own lax approach to personal security and privacy (or because they install every sodding game or application under the sun).
This isn't intended to scare the crap out of you (although I'm sure it may for some if you start seeing how real world attack scenarios occur in my references section and the Google/China hack) but you need to realise how it can be abused.
If you're going to use social networking services, you need to be mindful:
- what you share,
- who you share it with (companies/websites as well as individuals),
- default privacy/profile settings,
- if in doubt, just share the BARE MINIMUM required to maintain social contact!
- Facebook's Zuckerberg Says The Age of Privacy is Over
- I've Got Nothing To Hide (long paper - good read)
- How Google Got Hacked (NYtimes)
- Why I Care if Others Care About What They Ate for Breakfast
- Facebook from a Hacker's Perspective
- Why Black Hats Will Always Win (Black Hat presentation)