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Social Networking and Online security: Identity Theft in the Virtual World. Beware the Thieves Essay

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Updated: Aug 2nd, 2019

Introduction: The Effects of Social Networking: At the Dawn of the New Era

Over the past few years, the importance of live communication seems to have dropped, while the use of social networks has increased several times. Indeed, with the help of social networking, a lot of communication issues vanish without a trace. To start with, social networks serve as a kind of a bridge between countries and continents, linking the most remote places on the Earth together and allowing people from different corners of the world talk without any tangible problems.

However, in the recent social networking history, the infringements of users’ rights have been spotted. Since in most social networks, users are to specify their actual personal information, starting from the date of birth to the place of residence, the people who have become a part of social networking become extremely vulnerable to the attacks of hackers.

Taking into account the recent increase in the cases of account breach, one must admit that the security of social networks leaves much to be desired, and can possibly cause its virtual users a lot of real problems.

Concerning the Knowledge Deficit

It is necessary to mention that the given sphere has not been researched well enough. Through the pros and cons of using social networks have been studied long enough, such an obvious negative feature as fraud in social networking has not been yet studied quite well. According to Dupont, Bailey and Shearing have explored the aspect of the network multilateralization (Dupont 76); however, the researchers did not explore exactly the instances of online fraud. Hence, the problem of online identity theft needs to be considered closer.

It is necessary to mention that several researches have been written on the given issue. For instance, Dupont, Lehrman and Powell touch upon the given issue. It is important to mention that at present, the state of knowledge has been improved; however, there is still a considerable knowledge deficit in the given sphere. To be more exact, the fact that social networking can pose a threat to one’s personal data has been stated.

However, none of the existing solutions have been offered to handle the situation. While Dupont offers a statement about the conceptualization of security in the age of networks, Lehrman explains in details what kind of threats one can face when using social networks – blackmailing, to be exact – and Powell shows in a rather graphic way how far the insecurity of social networking has gone, none of the authors actually suggest a one-hundred-percent efficient means to solve the problem, which is an obvious knowledge gap in the given sphere.

Social Networking and Privacy Issues: Concerning the Security

Indicating their private data in the fields required for filling in when signing up for another social network, the user, therefore, makes the above-mentioned data available for online hackers. It cannot be doubted that the developers of the online networking systems do their best to provide the maximum security, yet a 100% guaranteed protection from account breaking is practically impossible. Thus, privacy issues arise in most of the social networks.

Indeed, the mechanism of account breaking and stealing one’s personal data is rather simple. According to what Lehrman says, “unless the company has a clear plan and mandated training and retraining of all employees, a determined attacker can gain access to highly sensitive information by simply asking for it” (Lehrman 64).

However, when it comes to revealing the actual causes of online security breach, the human factor appears to be the weakest link in the wall of defense that social network developers build around the profiles of the users. As Lehrman explains, “treating security as a purely technological problem virtually guarantees that these organizations will suffer a security breach, as they have overlooked the weakest link in the chain of security—the human factor” (Lehrman 64).

What Happens When the Account Is Broken: Insecurity

At first it seems that the problem of account breaking should be referred to the technical issues and, therefore, dealt with as an issue of technical sphere. Making the computer software, such as the anti-virus programs, more user-friendly and detecting spam messages in a faster and more reliable is, doubtlessly, one of the musts in the process of fighting the social network insecurity. However, as it has been mentioned above, there is always the human factor that makes even the most advanced software helpless in front of online attacks.

The Existing Ways of Protection: Against Online Identity Thieves

It goes without saying that the flaws in the online security of the existing social networking sites definitely are the scourge of the online communication. However, according to the existing data, there is a way to protect online users from hackers and, therefore, keep the users’ private information intact.

When dealing with the protection issues, it is necessary to specify the guidelines for the private users and the employees of a certain company. As Dinerman offers, the company officials can keep with the following regulations: “Alternatively, the company could (and should) have an Acceptable Use Policy, a document that details how these applications and the Internet in general can be used. The policy also defines consequences for failure to comply” (Dinerman 5).

However, the above-mentioned strategy is designed for the office employees’ security and, therefore, might not be enough for the rest of the users.

According to what Dupont says, the fact that social networks usually involve people from all over the world or at least a certain region, which makes the process of searching for the online criminals all the more complicated: “Existing regulatory means are usually focused on the actions of single organizations or individuals operating in well-defined sectors or domains, but do not appear to be properly equipped to deal with coalitions of interest transcending these boundaries” (Dupont 83).

According to Dinerman, there is a way to protect a natural person as well as a legal one. With the help of reinforced preventive measures, one can develop a sophisticated system of security. Despite the fact that it is impossible to take into account all the actions of an online user, there are still general safety measures which can guarantee a decent level of protection:

In order to protect their privacy, and themselves, users should be encouraged to have as little personal information as possible publicly available […]Users should not make their profiles available to everyone, and should avoid accepting friend requests from unknown sources. Strangers online should be treated like strangers offline – maintaining requisite politeness and distance (Lehrman 69).

Therefore, it can be considered that the safety rules are rather clear. However, they are at the same time extremely vague. While Lehrman describes a general strategy, he does not offer any specific rules, nor does he provide specific examples. Hence, the threat remains in its place.

Why Identity Theft Happens: Into the Mind of the Criminal

Nevertheless, even with the security levels as high as possible, there is still a possibility of someone hijacking one’s account and stealing the information. As Professor Evans, one of the leading experts on social networking and security issues, claims, “Any complex system has vulnerabilities in it. It’s just the nature of building something above a certain level of complexity” (Collins, para.8).

When the Devil is not as Black as It Is Painted: Social Networking Safety

It must be admitted that the problem of online security has recently spawned not only considerable discussions, but also a number of lawsuits.

According to what Powell says, the official verdict was passed in favor of the person whose account has been broken: “Granting the injunction, the court held that the precedent, as cited and skillfully argued in The Right to Privacy, recognized the principle protected in each of the cases was the right to privacy” (Powell 152). The above-mentioned allows to suggest that there has been suggested a solution to the issue in question.

However, it is still worth noting that the given legal case was one of the few complaints that were actually filed after the account of the plaintiff had been hacked. Therefore, there are certain reasons to suggest that the court cases on social network profile violation are still considered as something out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, this means that the rights of social network users are likely to be violated in the future.

A Possible Solution for the Problem: Guaranteed Online Security

Taking the above-mentioned into account, one might suggest that the safety of one’ privacy in the online world is impossible. Indeed, controlling the actions of people in virtual reality is extremely hard. However, it seems that there is a solution for the people who are willing to keep their private data from online hackers.

According to the research conducted by Cutillo and Molva, a new social network called Safebook offers the security which no other social network can, since it allows to “easily share information with selected contacts or the public, for either professional or personal purposes” (Cutillo and Molva). According to the authors, splitting the network into a business area and the area where people can make online friends provides enough security:

In the first case, the OSN is used as a facility geared toward career management or business goals; hence, SNS with a more serious image, like XING and LinkedIn, are chosen […]. In the case of more private use, they share more personal information like contact data, personal pictures, or videos (Cutillo and Molva 94).

Conclusion: When Things Can Actually Get Right. Taking Another Chance

Therefore, it can be considered that, in terms of privacy issues, social networking is far from being the most secure place in the entire virtual world. No matter what reasons the online hackers have to support their actions, social networking profiles are still broken on a regular basis, which means that social networking, where one has to name his/her actual personal data, is rather an unsafe place.

It must be admitted that sufficient measures to provide the users’ safety are taken by the developers of the above-mentioned networking; however, no matter how solid and useful the innovations are, the means of breaking the social network accounts will always be one step ahead, with their sophisticated traps.

It can be argued, though, that the safety of the users depends considerably on the users themselves. Nevertheless, one cannot deny that there will always be the threat of the leakage of private information, which means that there is a lot about the current social networking that needs improvement.

Works Cited

Collins, Brendan. “.” Fastcompany 3 October 2008. Web.

Cutillo, Leucio Antonio and Refik Molva. “Safebook: A Privacy-Preserving Online Social Network Leveraging on Real-Life Trust.” Consumer Communications and Networking December 2009: 94-101. Web.

Dinerman, Brad n. d., Social Networking and Security Risks. Web.

Dupont, Benoit. “Security in the Age of Networks.” Policing & Security 14.1 (2004): 76-91. Print.

Lehrman, Yosef. “The Weakest Link: The Risks Associated with Social Networking Websites.” Journal of Strategic Security 3.2 (2010): 63-71. Print.

Powell, Connie Davis. “‘You Already Have Zero Privacy. Get Over It!’ Would Warren and Brandeis Argue for Privacy for Social Networking?” Pace Law Review 31.1 (2011): 146-181. Print.

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