Security firm Sophos has proven once again that, despite most of the attention and scorn being focused on companies like Facebook and Google, you are your own worst enemy when it comes to online security
. The company ran an experiment in which it sent an invite to 200 randomly selected accounts to befriend one Freddi Staur -- an anagram for "ID fraudster." Of those 200 people 82 accepted the request and revealed at least some personal data to the fake account. Of those 82, an alarming number shared e-mail addresses (72-percent), dates of birth (84-percent), home address (78-percent) and phone numbers (23-percent). One user even revealed his mother's maiden name. All of this information could easily be used to steal a person's identity.
Sophos senior security analyst Ron O'Brien told AllThingsD that while "collecting 'friends' is encouraged by social-networking
and business-networking sites... people need to be more selective about whom they provide information to." As always, the key to protecting your privacy online is a healthy dose of caution and skepticism. Even if you can't bring yourself to reject friend requests from strangers, the least you should do is review your privacy
settings on social networks like Facebook
, and make sure your most personal data is hidden even from friends. Or, if you feel it necessary to keep your contact information available for those who know you, create a white list by using the "customize" option on your privacy page to create a group of people who are allowed to view your information. By default, your personal data will be hidden from anyone not explicitly added to the list.