Are you hurting your friends and putting them in danger with cyber security threats? It’s quite likely. Here’s how you could be putting the people you love in harm’s way:

Spreading Viruses

When you have a contagious disease, you’re probably considerate enough (and ill enough) that you try to avoid your friends and family members as best as possible to avoid spreading the infection to them. But do you take the same precautions with your computer?

Anti-virus software and firewalls are installed on practically every computer today, so hackers write viruses which spread through indirect methods. Sharing files with your friends can spread viruses on your computer to your friends’ computers. So can connecting your infected USB drive to your friends’ computers.

People need to be educated and learn to protect a computer from viruses, not only for their sake, but for their friends too!

When Hackers Hijack Your Identity

If you have a lot of online friends, you probably know somebody who had their email, Twitter, Facebook, or other online account hijacked.

Hijacking scams are popular with hackers because they work. Up to 10% of hijack scams result in the hacker convincing someone’s friends to send the hacker money.

To protect your friends from hijack scams, do two things:

1.   Tell your friends, family members, and anyone you correspond with that you will never ask them for money or tell them to download software without speaking to them on the phone first.

2.   Keep your account secure as best as possible. I know sometimes you need to trade off security for convenience, but think very hard before you put your friends at risk.

Are you an unwitting cyber security terrorists that does not know you are risking your friends privacy?

Revealing Sensitive Data

Social media is a great way to stay in touch with the people you love, but it also makes it easy to reveal sensitive data. Consider the following imaginary tweet:

@Joe and I are having a great time in Japan.

If you have a public Twitter account (even if Joe doesn’t), now everyone knows Joe is on vacation. That means his house may be empty, so a savvy burglar may try to rob it. (If Joe’s house isn’t empty, the results could be tragic—what if the robber hurts Joe’s wife or children?)

Less extreme examples are more common. Your social media posting could reveal to your friends’ bosses that they skipped work or hurt their chances at getting a better job. Consider that tweets are commonly used today as character references in American criminal cases—if you frequently mention your friend’s history of taking drugs, a prosecutor may be able to use that against your friend in court.

And, worse, in court cases even social media posts and emails which are marked private can be admitted into evidence.

You are a cyber security threat to your friends and there’s no simple cure. But you can start by thinking through the consequences of everything you do with technology and by trying to look out for your friends’ best interests.