Important legal notice
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Headlines Published on 8 November 2007

Title The challenge of making social networks safe

ENISA, the new European Network and Information Security Agency of the European Union, recently launched a position paper on internet social networking security. The paper on Social Networking – How to avoid a Digital Hangover, which was presented at a conference called "exchallenges" at The Hague in October, calls attention to the security issues surrounding the social networking sites that are mushrooming on the internet. These sites can be a good way to make friends and contacts. But how much information is being stored about its users?

Who is making use of the personal details you post on a website?
Who is making use of the personal details you post on a website?

Internet social networking sites are now extremely popular, and many of them are among the most visited websites globally. In the past five years, they have rocketed from a niche activity to a multi-million-dollar internet phenomenon. They attract hundreds of thousands of users who are eager to connect with others and make new friends, but in their enthusiasm, are parting with a great deal of personal information. Most users are not aware of who may access this information or what may happen to it in the future. The friendly nature of the social networking websites also means that privacy and security are not always a user’s top priority.

ENISA has identified a series of risks involved in adding personal details to a social networking website, including face recognition, personal information being obtained by blackmailers or spammers, so-called “spear phishing” (i.e. fraudulent emails sent to companies seeking their confidential data), reputation damage through identity theft, cyber stalking and bullying.

It is now important for data laws to be changed as social networking websites did not exist when the most recent data protection laws were created. Modifications on data privacy in social networking websites and increased transparency in data handling are vital. ENISA also wants to call attention to the problem by awareness-raising campaigns in schools and colleges, and best practice training for software developers to make security for social networking websites a deliberate policy. It aims to discourage the banning of students using social networking websites in school and colleges by instead holding open discussions to educate students and their parents about the best way to use the networking sites safely.

ENISA was set up to develop a high and effective level of network information security within the EU. It is seeking to develop a culture of network and information security for consumers, business and public sector organisations in the EU. It is a Centre of Excellence that gives specific advice and recommendations on software security and the digital economy. It also acts as a facilitator between EU institutions and business and industry.

More information:

  • echallenges conference
  • Rapid data recording and analysis combats cyber crime

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