I love Facebook! I enjoy keeping in touch with people I served in the Army with, far-flung family members, co-workers past and present. I’ve found several groups that feed my hobby interests and several that provide professional information. All in all, I find it a useful platform.
Unfortunately, wherever there is a good thing going on, someone will find a way to exploit it for not-good, and Facebook is no exception. There are some security gurus who say that the security trade-off makes Facebook not worth it. I’m not a security guru, and they may be right. But Facebook isn’t going anywhere, and people who love using it are not going to stop using it. Today I’m going to present five things you can keep in mind or actively do to increase your security, while still enjoying the good things Facebook offers.
- Sensational items are almost always scams, at worst. At best, they’re overblown and not worth your time. Here’s an example which did actually appear at Facebook, dissected by Graham Cluley. The title of the item reads, “(Shocking Video Footage) 18 Dead in shocking roller coaster accident”. Aside from the morbidity of watching “shocking video footage,” there is a very good reason NOT to click on that link. It leads to a rogue application requesting permission to slurp up information from your profile–your contact information, your friends, your interests. Then it asks for permission to post on your behalf. Have you ever seen a post from one of your friends that made you think, “That couldn’t possibly be from them?” (Have you just had an “AHA” moment?) If this happened to you, you can go into Facebook settings and revoke the permission you just granted. You may see a whole lot of other apps you don’t remember giving permission to do things. Take care of the whole lot of them at one fell swoop.
- Take your profile off of public. Seriously, you joined Facebook to keep in touch with people you know, and they’re the only people who need to see your posts. Up near the top of your screen, over to the right, click on the gear, click Privacy settings, click Privacy, and cruise around in there to see what “Public” settings you have. CHANGE THOSE!!! Oh, and every time you share something or post a photo, get in the habit of paying attention to how it’s being shared. The default is public. Here’s why this is important: If you haven’t revoked permission from a rogue app, and it’s posting things on your behalf that you may not want associated with you, a prospective employer or someone else for whom you may want to make a good impression, can see all about the “you” that may or may not be “you.” If your profile is private, only people you actually have a Facebook connection with can see your stuff.
- Do you really need your contact list uploaded to Facebook? No. Facebook wants your contact list. Say no to that one.
- If you’re already logged into Facebook, and you click a link and you get another request to log into Facebook, exit immediately. The request is a password stealer, and your friends will see stuff from you that you don’t send.
- Recently I’ve gotten friend requests that indicate one mutual friend. Before accepting such a request, look through the profile. If the profile looks really new, like very few posts and interactions, despite quite a lot of “friends,” it’s a bogus profile and a bogus request. The requestor will eventually ask you for something. Because Facebook is free to use and profiles are disposable, this type of scam carries very little risk to the scammer. If you see quite a lot of interaction, ask your mutual friend if they know this person. Don’t feel bad about rejecting a friend request from a real person, if you don’t know them there is no loss. I have friends that I haven’t met but who are highly regarded by personal friends who facilitated a virtual introduction. But I don’t need “friends” who are using my trust in a “mutual friend” to gain my trust in themselves. Say no.
Facebook is fun. I don’t mind the ads, I don’t mind being “the product.” I have gotten some valuable information from my interactions. But folks, don’t become scam fodder. Take a few minutes and take care of business in your profile, and then pay attention to what you’re clicking on, and Facebook will be reasonably safe for you to use.
Have you been duped? Tell us about it. What did you learn, and what will you do differently as a result?