Mandy Haeburn-Little: Social media can pose danger

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How well do you really know your friends? If Facebook has anything to do with it, the answer might easily be “Not very well”.

In today’s increasingly digital society, the reality is that strangers can become part of your inner circle with a single click of a button.

More than 50 per cent of Scottish people use platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn to build up business and personal connections – they help source information, share knowledge and even find new employment. But how many people are aware of how easy it is for an e-criminal to take advantage of our trusting nature online to log onto your account using fake profiles to source private information that can be damaging to both you and your employer?

Research has revealed that increasing number of Scottish businesses and individuals are being targeted by scammers who trawl social networking sites to steal personal data. With this data it is very easy for the cyber criminal to raid a company’s personal files, sensitive data and even its finances.

With wise scammers now finding legitimate means to source our personal information from profiles, how can we protect ourselves?

My advice is to treat your social media pages and feeds with a level of caution. As young children, we are told not to speak to strangers. Online, as adults, that same rule does not apply. Most of us surf the web on a wave of naivety, connecting with virtual – and literal – strangers.

Half of us are guilty of accepting a friend or a connection request from a stranger, meaning in some cases, a malicious scammer gains easy access to your private network without them ever needing to speak to you.

Social media platforms ask users copious questions and suggest we state everything from our date of birth to our schooling and work with free abandon. I would emphasise that it’s not essential to fill out all of this information; especially if you are connecting with people online you don’t personally know. Offering up this information is easy bait to scammers who are all too interested in accessing your personal files, sensitive data and even your finances.

There’s a misconception that cyber criminals use smart, developed technology to steal information, but a large amount of their current tricks of the trade involve using social media in the same way as billions of other regular users.

Bearing this in mind, social media users need to ensure both personal and business accounts have strict privacy settings in place.

The nature of social media is to be personable and open, but remember that not everyone has good intentions.

Mandy Haeburn-Little is director of the Scottish Business Resilience Centre