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Social Networking Safety: Protecting Against Malware

written by: Lucinda Watrous•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 2/13/2010

In the final part of this series, we address how to protect a computer from malware when using social networking. Malware is dangerous and may cause the need for costly repairs to a computer. So knowing how to avoid it is important.

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    What is Malware?

    Malware can be any type of dangerous program that has been created as a tool used to compromise or steal sensitive information from your computer. Programs such as viruses and spyware are known as malware and is important to know what these things are and the signs of an infected computer in order to use social networking safely. If your computer is running slowly, seems to have a strange number of ads or pop-ups, or just doesn't seem to be acting right, you may have become victim to an infection and need to stop using the computer for online shopping and banking activities so the infection can be healed using a malware cleaner such as Malwarebytes.

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    How Malware and Social Networking Come Together

    Social networking is designed to help you meet people, so when you don't know someone, it is a common response to check the message. Sometimes scammers and phishers will send messages to you from an account they have hacked, so the messages aren't really coming from the person behind the account at all. These messages may look as though they are coming to you from someone you know, so in reading the messages or clicking the link, you have exposed yourself to malware.

    Depending on your level of familiarity with these social networks and people you're associating with on these networks, it could be very hard to distinguish a good message from a bad one. Scammers have created websites that look just like the one you're supposed to have been visiting, to fool users into thinking they are in the right place. Even innocently clicking on a hyperlink in a message, you could pass on the very same threats to those in your friends list if you are not careful.

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    Protecting Against Malware

    To protect yourself against malware while using social networking, there are some simple things to keep in mind.

    • If you choose to click on a link, make sure that it is taking you where it says it will. Check the address bar in your browser window and make sure it's where it should be. Looks can be deceiving.
    • Never enter any login or other sensitive information in this other website, just in case. In early days before people knew to check for the real website, people simply thought they were being prompted to login again, unknowingly giving their information to spammers to perpetuate the cycle.
    • Change your passwords frequently.
    • Never download anything from social networking websites.
    • Never click on links you don't trust.

    If you suspect an infection, stop using the computer and use your security software to find and remove the infection. Change your passwords and login information and proceed with caution.

Social Networking Safety

Social networking is a powerful communication tool and great for connecting with people; however, there are some risks associated with its use. This series will detail the risks, protecting against identity theft, and protecting against malware.
  1. Social Networking Safety: Overview and Risks
  2. Social Networking and Identity Theft: Staying Safe Online
  3. Social Networking Safety: Protecting Against Malware