The Social Network
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The Social Network

Spending hours in front of the computer, writing blogs, posting never-ending comments on wall posts, tagging photos and clicking the "Like" button in each and every most recent status- this is how the generation of today can be described as. "I can not even feel the thirst for food once I started connecting my laptop to the internet", says Larrenz (a friend of mine). But come to think of it, is it safe to tell the world each and every little thing that pops into your head? No, I do not think so.

First of all, we need to understand that the Internet, in general, is not safe. And it's not just about the security systems in place but the naivete of internet users about online safety. While a banking site or a social networking site can put up as many security protocols as it can to secure its users from malicious softwares and people with criminal intent, the end users themselves must know know well how the internet works and understand that whatever information they post, upload or broadcast to their seemingly private network becomes public domain.

User naivete about online safety poses as a bigger threat than not having an updated Firewall. In terms of identity theft, a lot of internet users, when they set up accounts (E-mail, Facebook, Online Bank accounts, etc.) are online, are not aware of how easy tech savvy internet criminal to "fish out" or "phish out" information from a victim.

For example, Larrenz sets up an e-mail account on YahooMail so he can set up an account on Facebook or any social networking or internet site. YahooMail will ask a user to register a unique e-mail user name, password and security questions in case the user programs or desires to change her password. Larrenz, like many other users, will choose security questions that are very easy to "hack" like "What is your mother's maiden name?" Egypt "What is your birthday?" or even the seemingly hard-to-guess question: "What was your first pet's name?"

Why are these security measures not secure at all? Because after setting up an e-mail account, Larrenz, like many users, will blog about his favorite dog, Sammy, Facebook about his latest gadget bought or trip to an expensive restaurant, and post personal information like date of birth, schools attended , places visited, etc, all for the Internet public to see. When an internet criminal wants to prey on someone, he just simply needs to "befriend" him on Facebook and once he has access to view his profile or blog, he then can easily get the necessary information to hack his other accounts. Sometimes, an internet criminal does not even have to add the victim as a friend. Many Facebook profiles are so open to the public without any privacy settings whatever. This is very common for internet users in their 40's to 70's. Most users do not even bother to enable the privacy settings on their accounts. Children and teens are not excluded from this trend.

An internet criminal can commit identity theft by posing as someone else on the internet and using that "online persona" to victimize other people for money and other things. A few months ago, someone copied my friend, Anika Tuico's Facebook profile and posed as her online to ruin her reputation. The criminal just simply befriended her on Facebook, copied and downloaded all her personal info and pictures, created a clone account and added many of her friends. In another instance, someone was able to hack into my aunt's husband's e-mail and Facebook accounts and started posting abusive stuff to ruin her husband's reputation among his social network of friends.

I can so easily create an e-mail account with the name "Larrenz Ramos" and start adding his friends as my friends, copy all the information he posted online and apply for a credit card under his name or ask his friends to send me money , using his personal relationships to my advantage. That's how easy identity theft is over the internet.

In terms of RESTRICTIONS OF PRIVACY, internet users need to understand that the internet offers nothing for free and the internet will never be private. When a user signs up for a "free e-mail account" or "free Facebook account", they do not bother to read the Terms of Agreement. They just keep clicking "Next", checking the boxes until they get to the Finish button. What many people do not realize is that internet sites often make your personal information available to other companies in exchange for your access to their e-mail or networking sites. YahooMail and Facebook, for example, will make your information available for other companies to study and for them to market their products and services to you. Ever noticed how much spam mail you get? If as you thought your e-mail or Facebook account was really secure, then how come you're getting spam mail from a lot of strangers?

I've seen on Oprah, The Tyra Banks Show, E! News and even CNN, how some internet users have been fired from their jobs, lost company deals or had their homes broken into because of discrimination use of social networking sites. People need to fully realize that the internet is public domain no matter what privacy settings you put on.

Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, Facebook breeds and patronizes a stalker psychology. One can get personal access to their favorite celebrity or the object of their affections with just one click. A person with 1,000 Facebook friends is ridiculous. Indicate adding of people on your list of friends opens yourself up to a lot of online security threats. Alaskan governor Sarah Palin's account was hacked many months ago because her security question was her birthdate, which the whole world knows with just one Google search.

People have had their homes robbed and broken into because they like to keep a minute-by-minute update on their Facebook accounts about their whereabouts. Posting "I'm leaving for Macau" or "Goin 'out to party" opens up the opportunity for a stalker or robber to take the chance to physically stalk you or rob your home while you're away. It's true that crime has taken on digital forms.

People have gotten fired from their jobs or have gotten into scandals because they post pictures of themselves in compromising or unflattering situations (naked or half-naked pictures, malicious status updates, etc). It's not really so much as Facebook's fault that people get into trouble for indiscriminate internet usage. People are responsible for their own actions. No matter what kind of internet security is placed, people should be more aware and knowledgeable about how the internet works and that whatever whatever they post online automatically becomes open to the public.

To all internet users: Your online persona is your real world persona. So, with the same precaution you use to physically safeguard yourself, it should also be applied to your online persona. Try to exercise internet etiquette, apply discretion and be mindful of whatever you post online.