Remember what you were told when you were little, “the best kept secret was one you didn’t tell anyone”. Well, this holds true with information you share online, or should I say information you shouldn’t share online.
While the perception felt by many using social networking or other file sharing sites conveys assurance, the facts are quite different. The truth is there are a number of ways an unauthorized person could quickly gain access to private information. Once access is gained the original sender has no control of how the information will be used.
The source you use to store your personal photos could increase the risks involved. Using a well known storage company may give you a sense of security but the fact remains that your information is sitting out there in an unprotected format. Without warning sensitive material could quickly be distributed or even turned into a viral web sensation if access is wrongfully gained.
Imagine these very real and possible scenarios:
1.You upload your private photos and share them with your “friends” using a very well known sharing site. Your “friends” access the image(s) posted and they are rendered in their web browser when they look at them. During this process the photos are stored in temporary internet folders on your “friends” computers. Those file(s) (photo(s)) now can easily make way to unauthorized viewers in a number of the following ways:
- – A friend could easily take the file (photo) and forward it to his/her friends without your knowledge or approval. This would be done by simply copying the file from the temporary folder and sending out via email, or reposting it to their site.
- – The friend’s computer could be affected with a worm, Trojan or any other virus that obtains information from their computer maliciously. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trojan_horse_%28computing%29
2. The company you selected to share your photos on experiences a data security breach that allows your information and/or photos to be leaked to the open web.
While some of these scenarios may seem impossible or far-fetched, many social network users have already had to face the stark reality that sharing online has its price.
So how do you protect yourself when sharing online?
- Your first and best practice is not to share anything online that is private or you wouldn’t want your mother seeing, your church handing out, or your boss attaching to your employment file.
- Your next best option is to use any number of encryption programs currently available to secure your file(s) if sending as an attachment. (Encryption scrambles a file format by manipulating its data to include an intertwined unique password key). While this too has its limitations, it does provide an additional layer of protection as long as the password remains in safe hands. However, sending a password online subjects that information to the possibility of being breached so any password information should be delivered to the intended recipients via an alternative method.
So, unless you have continuous control over what you share, it’s safe to say you’re putting yourself at risk with any sensitive material you choose to upload. The key is to realize this up front and take all available measures to safeguard your information.
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