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Social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn have become extremely popular in recent years, both with kids and adults. They’re a great way to keep family and friends updated on your life, but you should be wary about how much personal information you post.
Follow these tips to enjoy your social networking sites safely:
Privacy and security settings exist for a reason:
Learn about and use the privacy and security settings on social networks. They are there to help you control who sees what you post and manage your online experience in a positive way. Think about how different sites work before deciding to join a site. Some sites will allow only a defined community of users to access posted content; others allow anyone and everyone to view postings. Think about keeping some control over the information you post. Consider restricting access to your page to a select group of people, for example, your friends from school, your club, your team, your community groups, or your family. Make sure your screen name doesn’t say too much about you. Don’t use your name, your age, or your hometown. Even if you think your screen name makes you anonymous, it doesn’t take a genius to combine clues to figure out who you are and where you can be found.
Once posted, always posted:
Protect your reputation on social networks. What you post online stays online. Think twice before posting pictures you wouldn’t want your parents or future employers to see. Recent research found that 70% of job recruiters rejected candidates based on information they found online. Post only information that you are comfortable with others seeing — and knowing — about you. Many people can see your page, including your parents, your teachers, the police, the college you might want to apply to next year, or the job you might want to apply for in five years.
Your online reputation can be a good thing:
Recent research found that recruiters respond to a strong, positive personal brand online. So show your smarts, thoughtfulness, and mastery of the environment.
Keep personal info personal:
Be cautious about how much personal information you provide on social networking sites. The more information you post, the easier it may be for a hacker or someone else to use that information to steal your identity, access your data, or commit other crimes, such as stalking. Keep your information to yourself. Don’t post your full name, Social Security number, address, phone number, or bank and credit card account numbers — and don’t post other people’s information, either. Be cautious about posting information that could be used to identify you or locate you offline. This could include the name of your school, sports team, clubs, and where you work or hang out. Consider not posting your photo. It can be altered and broadcast in ways you may not be happy about. If you do post one, ask yourself whether it’s one your mom would display in the living room.
Protect your hardware:
Safety and security start with protecting computers. Install a security suite (antivirus, antispyware, and firewall) that is set to update automatically. Keep your operating system, Web browser, and other software current as well, and back up computer files on a regular basis.
Know and manage your friends:
Social networks can be used for a variety of purposes. Some of the fun is creating a large pool of friends from many aspects of your life. That doesn’t mean all friends are created equal. Use tools to manage the information you share with friends in different groups. If you’re trying to create a public persona as a blogger or expert, create an open profile or a “fan” page that encourages broad participation and limits personal information. Use your personal profile to keep your real friends (the ones you know trust) more synched up with your daily life.
Be honest if you’re uncomfortable:
If a friend posts something about you that makes you uncomfortable or you think is inappropriate, let them know. Likewise, stay open-minded if a friend approaches you because something you’ve posted makes him or her uncomfortable. People have different tolerances for how much the world knows about them respect those differences. Post only about others as you would have them post about you.
Know what action to take:
If someone is harassing or threatening you, remove them from your friends list, block them, and report them to the site administrator. Be wary if a new online friend wants to meet you in person. Before you decide to meet someone, do your research: Ask whether any of your friends know the person, and see what background you can dig up through online search engines. If you decide to meet them, be smart about it: Meet in a public place, during the day, with friends you trust. Tell an adult or a responsible sibling where you’re going, and when you expect to be back.
Use strong passwords:
Make sure that your password is long, complex and combines, letters, numerals, and symbols. Ideally, you should use a different password for every online account you have. If you need to write down your password to remember it, store it somewhere away from your computer.
Be cautious about messages you receive on social networking sites that contain links:
Even links that look they come from friends can sometimes contain malware or be part of a phishing attack (attempts to collect personal information: logon and password and other identifying information by pretending to be a message form a friend or a business). If you are suspicious, don’t click contact your friend or the business directly to verify the validity.
Further information on social networking safety can be found here on this US-CERT page.
POTENTIAL DANGERS ENCOUNTERED ON THE INTERNET
Just as in virtually all other aspects of life, there are persons who will use the Internet as a means to pursue criminal enterprise. Some of these may be personally hazardous to other users.
The Internet is a venue through which people otherwise extraordinarily distant and diverse may communicate with convenience. "Meeting" people on the Internet as correspondents is very easy; discerning any real information about these new acquaintances is more difficult.
No matter if you are meeting people through commercial dial-up services, commercial or free chat lines, Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels, online dating services, newsgroups, or in other ways, you should be aware of the possible dangers of interaction when conversations turn in a personal direction.
While danger from such links may not be
readily apparent, consider that the people with whom you are communicating:
* May not be anything like they describe themselves, and may not even be the gender they claim.
*Flirting with strangers online could have serious consequences. Because some people lie about who they really are, you never really know who you’re dealing with.
* May not be providing their real name or
personal information, and may be using someone else's account or even a
* May not be located where they say; the individual whom you believe to be on the other side of the country or overseas may be two blocks away.
*Trust your gut if you have suspicions. If you feel threatened by someone or uncomfortable because of something online, tell an adult you trust and report it to the police and the social networking site. You could end up preventing someone else from becoming a victim.
Depending upon how you connect, never forget that your communication with a perfectly legitimate person may be seen or intercepted by a third party with much different motives.
If you experience problems during use of the internet that you find threatening or offensive, contact your service provider and the University Police Department. If you live in university housing you should also contact the Division of Housing. Copy any contact information you have on the problem person, including email user id, password or other account/name/address information obtained including the "finger" or other "who is" information your connection client may be able to provide. Keep copies of threatening or offensive messages. These will be needed to trace the offender. Penalties may range from university discipline in some cases if the offender is a university student to criminal charges. The sanctions applied will depend on the act committed. Most commercial service providers will furnish written instructions for reporting this type of problem. If you cannot get the provider to correct the problem or intervene satisfactorily, consider changing to another provider who will deal effectively with such matters.
Tips for Your Safety:
Here are some basic personal safety tips you should consider whenever participating in Internet communication, particularly of a personal nature:
* Avoid giving out personal information such as your home address or telephone number to people you meet on the net; not everyone is what he or she seems.
* Exercise caution when agreeing to meet anyone in person whom you've met on the net. Before you arrange any such meeting, at least try to address the following:
* Can you verify, through a third party whom you know and trust, the true identity of this person?
* Is there a way to verify the information provided by this person?
Predators on the net thrive on the anonymity of the medium. You should find ways to positively identify your potential romantic partner before you allow a meeting. Where do they work? Can you call them at work? Where do they live and what is their telephone number?
If you choose to arrange a meeting, make it on
* Meet in as public a place as possible.
* Arrange your own transportation to and from the meeting.
* Bring a friend along for security; consider a "double-date" the first few times.
* Set your conditions for the encounter, and don't let your new friend change them.
* Stay near other people and in lighted areas throughout the meeting.
* If things go awry, can you positively identify the person to the police?
* Limit meetings to public places until you are comfortable with the other person and certain of whom they are what they want from the relationship.
The net is very much like our society. The majority are people who do their best to obey the excepted rules and behave responsibly. There are always, however, potential offenders mixed in the population. Observe the same precautions on the net you do in everyday life. Beware of the possibilities, and take appropriate steps to avoid situations you know or suspect could be dangerous.