By Tamara Gasparyan
Photos by Lusi Sargsyan
05-03-2017
Media expert gives advice on how to use social networking websites safely
Nowadays, most of us start and end the day on social networking websites.

They provide us with the opportunity to establish contacts with friends, relatives and colleagues, share impressions and issues of concern, participate in debates and discussions, share photos and videos and follow the latest events. In order to not become a victim of hacks on social networking websites containing an unlimited amount of information, people are advised to be aware of the rules of information security. Eritasard.am talked about several issues devoted to the topic with media expert Samvel Martirosyan.

How aware are social network users in Armenia of information security rules?

There is no specific study, but overall, Armenia is considered one of the world’s most risky countries. Users (not only users of social networks) are hacked the most, and Armenian users bear the most viruses in the world. This is due to lack of common knowledge. There are also other problems. For instance, Armenians love to search and find everything, as well as purchase and download anything that is not licensed. The lack of knowledge is also explained by the simple fact that information hygiene is not taught properly in schools and universities, meaning people are simply unaware of what they should do to be secure.

At what age are people advised to register on social networking websites?

I believe a person doesn’t have the right to register on social networking websites, if they have critical thinking. He won’t have anything else to do on the website and won’t be able to differentiate between right and wrong.

Who mainly becomes a target for hackers on social networking websites?

There are two types of hacks. The first is targeted and is specifically targeted against people like a celebrity or any person from whom the hacker can extort money. However, hacks are mainly massive, meaning hackers make money by hacking. When Azerbaijanis were recently hacking into Facebook pages, most of the victims of the hacks were minors.

How can one protect himself from hacks?

This is a question that requires a long answer because the problems gradually change and grow, but if you take into consideration some main provisions, you can avoid most of the hacks. Firstly, passwords must not be repeated and predictable, meaning they must not be your phone number, the name of a child, dog, etc. Secondly, every social networking website has its Help section where everything is stated in detail and in a language that everyone can understand, but nobody reads that section. Facebook has a security section. You can adjust settings to make sure you receive an SMS and at least know that someone has hacked into your account from a different computer and change the password quickly. The two-stage login is also important. Besides logging in with your name and password, in the second stage, the system asks you for a code that you either receive from the Facebook App or via SMS. In that case, even if your password is stolen, the hacker won’t be able to log into your system. Another advice is to avoid clicking on incomprehensible links from strangers and even from people you know. This is how hackers mainly hack into accounts. People often send links that contain a virus or an App that passes to the Internet browser and steals your data. There are also fishing links. If you click on that link, you will open a page that is similar to the Facebook page. You log in and provide your password to the hacker. It is enough to look at the address of the page and you will see that you are not on Facebook.

So, opening all files without checking will eventually lead to hacks. This is common knowledge. Of course, there are cleverer hacks that require the hacker to be more prepared, but if you spend a couple of hours and read the relevant literature, you will be ready for 99 percent of hacks.

In our days, anyone can post anything on the Internet, meaning social networking websites are full of an unlimited amount of information. How can one determine which is true and which is not true?

In reality, this has become such a serious issue that the schools of several countries now teach media literacy so that children know how to differentiate between pieces of information at a young age. There are some basic rules. After all, you can choose some reliable media outlets that always provide verified information. If you have seen something sensational, verify your sources! If it is something really serious, the particular source will report the information sooner or later. You shouldn’t even read information under titles such as “Sensation”, “Fast” and “Read it before it is deleted” because people are trying to force you to read it and believe. It might be true and the writer simply wants you to click on the link and see an advertisement, but the writer is making you do something that you wouldn’t do in a state of consciousness.

There are more complicated things. For instance, if you have doubts, check the photos (Google allows you to do that). There are also ways to check videos, but you have to find the way to do that.

However, there might be false information that your reliable media outlet has posted as a result of a hack. For instance, Azerbaijanis have done that a couple of times. They have hacked into reliable news websites and posted information stating that the Armenian army has suffered great casualties and on behalf of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia. When it comes to major topics, you need to compare several sources.

We often fin information that must not be posted. For instance, there were recently photos clearly showing military data. Is it possible to develop a mechanism to make the dissemination of such information impossible?

Unfortunately, it is impossible to develop a mechanism for social networking websites because anybody can publish anything he wants, but journalists should at least know the rules and keep personal data confidential. Unfortunately, one can see a passport containing all personal data, photos and names of minors on news websites, but this is also prohibited by law. This is also a matter of educating journalists.

What role do social networking websites play in the political processes in Armenia?

Several political figures use Facebook to issue statements. Here you can find journalists, members of NGOs, activists and others, meaning this is the main platform where you can find everyone. They have an overtly great influence. Besides that, it also serves as a mobilizing resource to gather people at a rapid pace.