Lock down your social media with essential security add-ons

Oversharing: It's become standard operating procedure in our social-media-obsessed world. Still, there's a difference between Facebooking embarrassing party photos or tweeting about your celebrity crush, and actually releasing critical private information to the Internet at large.

Knowing your social media privacy settings can certainly keep your data safer, but a number of apps and services can help out, too.

Today we look at two types of social-networking security apps. The first type can alert you and your friends to malicious posts, comments, links, and other exploits that are used to spread viruses, phishing scams, and malware. The second type is designed for keeping tabs on your children: These tools can alert you to any potentially dangerous communication or content on your child's Facebook page (such as material containing violence, sex, drug use, and inappropriate language), and other things such as questionable friends (or possible predators).

Bitdefender Safego

Bitdefender Safego is a free antiscam service for Facebook and Twitter. The Facebook app automatically scans items posted to your wall or Timeline, status updates, and messages. It will also scan your friends’ updates and comments for spam, scams, phishing attempts, malware, and other malicious activity. Its Privacy feature will tell you what sorts of things you may be unknowingly sharing publicly, and will warn you of possible privacy issues.

Here's how it works. Once you authorize the Bitdefender Safego app to access your Facebook account, it will start to monitor the account. When it finds malicious activity or a privacy issue, the app will comment on the malicious post or notify you via the Facebook notifications feed.

You can also set it to publish a weekly summary of the detection statistics on your wall and/or publish warning comments to posts that it finds malicious.

The Bitdefender Safego Facebook app page shows the scanning alerts and stats.

MyPageKeeper

MyPageKeeper is a free Facebook antiscam app from StopTheHacker and researchers at the University of California, Riverside. Currently in public beta, MyPageKeeper monitors all items posted on your profile and news feed, and notifies you of malicious posts, much as Bitdefender Safego does.

Also like Safego, if MyPageKeeper finds something malicious or something that presents a privacy risk, the app will comment on the post or send you an email notification.

The MyPageKeeper Facebook app page is where you install the app and access the settings

You can go to this app's Facebook app page and click the Settings link to change the settings; from there, you can turn the automatic commenting on malicious posts on or off. You can also turn on more aggressive notifications; this provides better protection, but may also result in a few false alarms, according to MyPageKeeper's creators.

SocialShield

SocialShield, from security software firm Avira, is a free monitoring service that lets you keep an eye on your child’s Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Google+, and FormSpring accounts. SocialShield analyzes the kid's public and private posts, messages, photos, friends, and other content to alert you to any dangerous activity. It searches for inappropriate content such as profanity, sexual terms, and discussion of drinking or drugs.

After you create a SocialShield account or log in with your Facebook account, you can add your child’s accounts with his or her usernames and passwords, or send the child an invitation email so he or she can provide their log-in credentials.

Once that Facebook account is connected, SocialShield will show you any alerts categorized by friends, posts, messages, and photos or videos.

The SocialShield portal shows an overview of alerts.

SocialShield gives you an overview and more details of any alerts regarding your children's accounts. You also can view a listing of all of your children's friends and a listing of any potentially dangerous photos posted to their accounts.

Minor Monitor

Minor Monitor is another free monitoring service that works with both Facebook and Twitter. Similar to SocialShield, it analyzes your child’s Facebook posts, messages, photos, friends, and other content to alert you of any dangerous activity. But unlike SocialShield, Minor Monitor lets you see all activity instead of just those items marked as potentially dangerous.

After you sign up, you simply add your child’s Facebook account by logging in with his or her username and password. Once Minor Monitor finishes its initial analysis, it will give you a few charts and graphs that show number of alert types (profanity, sexual, and such), activity sentiment (positive versus negative activity), activity types (posts, comments, messages, and so on), and activity schedule (what your child is posting and when). You can also view a listing of alerts or all posted photos, activity, and friends.

The Minor Monitor portal shows an overview of the potentially dangerous content and charts showing the activity.

You can disable the default alert emails via the settings pane and customize the level of sensitivity for the different alert categories. From there, you can also add your child's Twitter account, which Minor Monitor will analyze and track much like the child's Facebook account.

Here’s where you can change the Minor Monitor settings

Other options

These are just a few of the tools out there to try. Many security companies are starting to build social-media security tools directly into their antivirus packages and security suites.

For instance, Trend Micro offers one of the more notable tools in its 2013 Titanium antivirus line. In addition to warning you about malicious links on social networks, the software also comes with a tool that will check your Facebook privacy settings and warn you of any problems.

When it comes time to upgrade your security software, check to see if the new version has similar social-network security tools.

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