Should you accept LinkedIn connection requests from strangers? Before deciding, make sure you understand the security and reputation risks.
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the like make sense professionally for some people, but not for others. Presence on LinkedIn, on the other hand, is a no-brainer.
Although LinkedIn has gone through lots of changes lately, for the most part it is what it is: the leading social network and collaboration space for people who want to make and develop professional contacts and their own careers. What's less clear about LinkedIn is how far your network should extend. Sure, having lots of connections looks good on your profile, but is any connection a good connection? Can some connections actually hurt you?
There are two schools of thought on this issue, according to Ari Lightman, professor at Carnegie Mellon University and director of its CIO Institute. "If you're an open networker, it makes sense to connect to as many folks as possible -- that broadens your network and gives you reach which might come in handy and provide greater visibility," he said. "The other camp says if you do not know the person you should not connect with them."
Lightman said the arguments for being more selective about the people you connect with are focused on relevance and security. "More people make it more difficult to receive information that really might be of value," he said. "Another argument for no is that you open up yourself to spam from folks who want to sell you products and services. This is commonplace, and many people simply tune it out. But when there is malicious intent -- say, a phishing attempt -- then clicking on a link can load a virus onto your system. There have also been several fake connection requests infecting the unsuspecting user with virus attacks."
And as LinkedIn and other social networks soak up more and more of our personal information, people may be looking to connect to perpetrate identity theft.
"There is plenty of information that someone could mine if they wanted to try and recreate your identity, including work history," said Lightman. "Exposing your information to a wide community gives them access to lots of data about you that could be used maliciously. LinkedIn, as well as all other social networks, are trying to get this under control by allowing people to adjust their privacy settings. It comes down to the classic trade-off of openness/transparency versus risk mitigation."
In addition, indiscriminate connecting isn't just a threat to you; it could be a threat to your company and your colleagues, according to security consultant Brad Causey.