Loss of money, tarnished reputation and family conflicts - these are just some of the effects of posting personal information online (photos, check-ins, etc.).
The biggest danger lies in the fact that information shared on social networking sites and other public sources is analysed and used, not only by those it was intended for, but also by a whole host of complete strangers - among them, advertising agencies, journalists, intelligence services, religious sects, extremist organizations, criminals of all stripes and potential employers.
Everything that you or your children publish online can be used against you - whether it's an angry post on a random topic, an intimate photo or details of your personal life. It is therefore important for you to remember, and to teach your children, that before you click that "Post" or "Tweet" button, think about any adverse consequences that may arise from the post in future. Will this information have a negative effect on your personal life, or someone else's? What will a future employer say if they see it? Is it possible to use this information, for example, to track you or your child in the real world?
What you and your family should never post online:
Home, work or school address. Armed with this information, robbers, pedophiles, bullies and other unsavoury characters can easily locate you or other family members. While children rarely publish their home address on social networking sites, every third child names the school they attend.
Phone number. A phone number is a direct means of contact that peers can use to bully children and adults for even more sinister things. For criminals this particular piece of information is among the most valuable data they can get. For example, Kaspersky Lab specialists recently discovered a fraudulent scheme whereby cybercriminals collected phone numbers of people in social networks and used the stolen information to re-register for online banking services and gain access to their victims' accounts.
Your current geolocation ('Or check-in'). Information that a family is away from home is a signal for burglars. Together with address information, it presents them with an easy target for a robbery. It also makes it easier to track someone down for other purposes.
Intimate/compromising photos. Photos that may seem like a bit of fun to adolescents could get them into trouble if published on the Internet. For example, there are numerous sites that collect erotic pictures of teenage girls and publish them as "hot" content. Also, the directors of colleges and universities and potential employers may take a very dim view of compromising photos posted online (e.g., a drunken night out).
Compromising photos of other people. Do not publish photos of other people that you would not like to see of yourself. Everyone should understand this basic rule. According to FOSI research conducted in the US, one in five parents posted information on the Web about their child that the child found unacceptable and asked them to remove it. It is important to remember that pictures of your child that seem very sweet to you could result in bullying in the future.
Photos of expensive gifts. This is a demonstration of wealth or luxury to strangers. Together with your home address and current geolocation it is a gold mine for thieves searching for victims on the Internet.
Information about your personal life. Personal information can always be used against you. For example, it can be used to guess the password you use for an online account, to devise a scam that looks credible and that you are more likely to fall for, or to become acquainted with your child and gain their confidence. Publishing complaints or very personal information about your loved ones is particularly harmful as it may also damage your relationship. One more thing - remember that photos of your ex that are posted in public view could ruin current or future relationships.
Critical statements on sensitive topics. Of course, both you and your children are allowed to have your own opinions. However, when it comes to contentious issues such as religion, politics, sex, etc., you might want to think twice before sharing your opinions on the Internet. This may cause a conflict that can shift from the virtual to the real world, or spoil your reputation in the eyes of a potential educational institution or an employer.
What should you do?
• If you wouldn't publish something on the front page of a daily newspaper, don't post it online.
• Don't use the same password for all your online accounts - if one account is compromised, they all could be. If you believe anybody else has found out your password - even if they are a friend or part of your family - change it immediately.
• If your phone or tablet is lost or stolen, change your iCloud or G Cloud password immediately.
• Review your Facebook security settings carefully, ideally restricting all sections to be viewed/shared to 'friends only'.
• Tell your children what they must not, under any circumstances, publish on the Internet and why. Explain that posting on a social networking site is like speaking in public - you shouldn't write anything on the Internet that would be considered dangerous or unethical to 'shout' about in the street or in a classroom.
• Register on the same social networking sites as your children and add them as friends so you can see their posts and quickly prevent any excessive openness.
• Make use of parental control apps, such as Kaspersky Safe Kids, that protect your children from inappropriate content and inform you about changes to their social network profiles and friend lists as well as any potentially dangerous posts.
• Set limits to what applications can do and remove applications once you no longer wish to use them.
• Don't assume that someone is who they say they are. Remember that even a friend's account may be hacked, in which case it could be a cybercriminal that's sending you a message, or inviting you to click on a link.
• Don't think you have to be honest about personal information you declare e.g. account verification data such as mother's maiden name, date of birth, etc. often don't need to be real.
• For other online activities, use only secure web sites (check that the web site address starts with 'https').
• Protect your computer using Internet security software and always install security updates to software on your computer.