Some employees have replaced the daily computer solitaire break with a daily check of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, Windows Live Spaces, or other favorite social networking site, many workplaces report.

 

Online social networking might be a more interactive distraction for employees than playing cards, but it's a lot more dangerous to the health of the corporate network.

 

Several recent reports attest that phishing scams, viruses, spyware, and other unwanted software are spreading through social networks and into workplace networks. These outbreaks can damage computer systems and might even steal sensitive information from your company.

 

Some workplaces block social networking Web sites, but because these sites can also be a valuable tool at work, you still might have access.

 

If you do, here are some ways to use that access more safely:

 

·        Find out if your company has a policy about visiting certain Web sites using your corporate network.

·        When you sign up for a social networking site, use your personal e-mail address, not your company e-mail address.

·        Use caution when you click links that you receive in messages from your friends on your social networking site. Treat links in messages on these sites as you would links in e-mail messages. (For more information, see Approach links in e-mail with caution.)

·        Be choosy about who you accept as a "friend" on a social network. Identity thieves may create fake profiles in order to glean information from you. This is known as social engineering.

·        Be careful about the information you reveal about your workplace or company on your social networking site. (This is a good rule to follow for blogs too.) For more information, see How to protect your privacy in online communities.