Privacy on social networks seems a little oxymoronic to me. We tell the world about our lives, but we don’t want everyone to knoweverything. I know many people who only want some people to share in their experiences, but those same people often friend people they don’t know. See what I mean? Anyway, it is still a good idea to lock down all your privacy settings and avoid friending people you don’t really know.

But what about security?

When using WiFi, the information that travels from your device to the wireless router can be seen/read (or “sniffed”) if a hacker has the right tools. Keep in mind that not all hackers are criminals; some are what are called “penetration testers” who use software specifically designed for seeking out vulnerabilities in wireless networks or in websites themselves. The problem here is some of the tools penetration testers use can also be accessed by criminals, making your information vulnerable to a bad guy.

Back in 2010, a (non-malicious) “white hat” hacker created a tool called Firesheep. Firesheep is an extension for the Firefox web browser that uses a packet sniffer to intercept unencrypted cookies from websites such as Facebook and Twitter. As cookies are transmitted over networks, packet sniffing is used to discover identities on a sidebar displayed in the browser, allowing the user to instantly take on the login credentials of the unsuspecting Firefox user by double-clicking on the victim’s name.

Since then, social media sites have done a much better job of securing their sites with SSL, which is short for Secure Sockets Layer, a security protocol that provides communication security over the internet. However, many sites that exchange personal or private information still use HTTP without the SSL, and numerous tools for auditing (hacking) WiFi or wired Ethernet connections exist.

To protect yourself, do the following:

  • When sharing data, always login via sites that encrypt user data using SSL, which is designated in the address bar as HTTPS.
  • Use a secure virtual private network (VPN).Hotspot Shield VPN free proxy protects your identity by ensuring that all web transactions (shopping, filling out forms, downloads, etc.) are secured through HTTPS.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen  See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

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