Security Flaw 101: The Social Media Trap – By Qouphy Appiah Obirikorang

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It’s no doubt that technology has changed our way of life and has actually brought the term “global village” into real perspective. A decade ago, the internet had just started making entry into the Ghanaian space and was reserved for the upper class in the society and the few people in the middle belt who were bent on learning the mystery surrounding the internet technology. Back in the days, Ghana Telecom (now Vodafone) and AfricaOnline controlled the internet space and dialup was the only way one could get hooked up to the internet. Internet cafes were scanty and the few people who ventured into that space reaped a fortune and were seen as demi-gods providing the masses with access to graphical worldwide information.

Yahoo Mail and Hotmail (now Live) were the “in-thing” and it was very suave to add the year you signed up your email address to your email address ID (example koomensah2002@yahoo.com)

With the rapid advancement of technology in the past few years, internet has been made accessible to all with internet service providers and telecommunication companies providing virtually zero fees to access the internet. The technological gadgets space was also impregnated with super cool gadgets that even fits into the pocket and equipped with powerful WIFI and EDGE facilities offering blistering speed internet access. Social media gradually crept into the big picture with Hi 5 and Myspace setting the pace and these two applications caught up with a few internet surfers. Accounts were created online enabling old connections with friends and loved ones to be established.

Facebook broke the social media jinx in Ghana and it was widely accepted and swept across the entire nation at the speed of light. Almost everyone was caught up in the Facebook frenzy and the questions on the lips of friends you meet are “are you on Facebook? What name do you use?” Those without a Facebook account were either branded as “technophobic” or “villagers”. People established new contacts, rekindled old friendship and love, found new love, made enemies, gained popularity, branded intelligent or a dimwit etc. The addiction to both Facebook and Twitter got intense and actually led to an upsurge in online communication and strain on inter-personal relationships. It is seemingly “cool” to see two people with their heads down, busily punching at the minute keyboards on their phones and giggling away.

With the rapid deployment of new enhancements for Facebook and Twitter; the issue of privacy and security became lost to

majority of these internet surfers. The issue of trust was let down and people actually opened up their whole life story on the social media. Private picture meant for the eye of someone was made public to everyone; phone numbers and email address that were supposed to be communicated to the interested party was publicly displayed on their walls with very sensitive information attached.

The art of geo-location tagging came into the picture; geo-location tagging or “Check In” is a GPS application that tracks your location real time and display for others to see. It is a common sight to see updates such as “Kofi Mensah is at Accra Mall”, “Adwoa Adjeiwaa is at Wok Inn Restaurant” etc. Inasmuch as it being nice to update your status to that effect; it’s a fundamental security breach in many reasons:

Your current location can compromise your security because you become a target to anyone who is not seeking your best interest
You stand a chance of getting robbed either on the spot or the vacant house you’ve left behind. A case study is if I know you live alone and I see you update your status with a geo-location tagging of being at a particular place; there’s a high probability that your house is empty
You open up your privacy issues to the whole world.

Giving too much information on a social media can be very dangerous not only to you but you the people you are involved with. On the personal information page (wall) of most people on a social media; information such as “Yaw Amponsah is married to Adwoa Manu, Kofi Mensah is a sibling, Yaa Adofo is a cousin” etc. A whole family tree is spelled out of a social media with links to the people involved displa

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yed. By giving away too much information, you stand a high risk of endangering the lives of the people you are connected with to anyone with evil intent.

Children are a blessing to marriages/relationships and it’s no doubt they bring joy and comfort to every couple. The art of uploading your kids’ photos on Facebook must be done with great care. Some photos are harmless but photos displaying your kids in school uniforms WITH school crests boldly displayed in the picture should never be uploaded onto a social media if you have your kids at heart. It will be an easy job for a fundamental kidnapper to locate your child’s school by just knowing the name of your kid’s school. Always be circumspect in uploading photographs of your children onto a social media platform. In the same light, do not upload photographs that clearly identify your home by showing popular landmarks etc.

Pictures, they say, speak a thousand words and social media without pictures will become “raw” and text based only. Uploading so many private pictures opens you up to identity theft or impersonation cases. Internet fraudsters are always on the lookout for “sexy” photographs of ladies (mostly) and will copy virtually all of them and use them to commit crimes on dating sites etc. Your love for upload of so many personal pictures will land the “sakawa” boy to hit a jackpot by presenting your photos to a wily man on the internet looking for love.

It is imperative that the issue of privacy and security be acknowledged always when using the social media platform because the world is growing smaller due to the digital age and YOU DO NOT KNOW who is accessing your information at what time and for what. Privacy and security issues must always be given a second thought when we’re having fun on the internet superhighway.

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