Keeping safe on the internet is becoming more difficult with new technologies being invented. We’re sharing more of ourselves than we probably should on websites like Facebook and Twitter. Users of social networking websites are finding out that even though Facebook has enhanced their privacy settings, this doesn’t make it anymore difficult for someone to find out information about you. Personal data of who you are, your interests, your friends, family members, co-workers, where you work, who you’ve worked for, schools you attended, your hobbies, favorite places to eat, interests, your complete name and date of birth are all just a few examples of information they could find out about you in minutes. Now if that doesn’t scare you, if someone really wanted to find out who you are they could very easily just study your Facebook wall. I don’t know if this is the same for you, but it seems mostly everyone on my personal Facebook shares more information about themselves then they probably should via quick posts to their profile wall. So before I go any further on Facebook Privacy and Online Security Tips, I would like to share with you a little background about me.
Why Should I Care What You Have To Say?
That should be just a rhetorical question simply asked to begin the opening of this paragraph however, I will answer it anyway. You should care because your online privacy is important for the safety of yourself and others! The information and tips I have to share with you are derived from my own personal and professional experiences working for a social networking website Bebo.com. Bebo inc. is now owned by AOL and I will tread lightly on what I will discuss of them before they decide to sue me for everything I don’t have.
Working for Bebo.com
While working for Bebo, I learned a lot about data sharing, social networking, and the internet in general. It was all very interesting to watch popularity trends develop. It was amazing to witness people from different nations interact with one another via social groups through similar interests. This, in my opinion, is what the internet should be; a web of useful information shared amongst others for the only reason to do good for humanity and progress science and mankind. During this time (roughly 6 years ago) social networks were still a very new and innovative concept. Yea, we had Myspace [________] but it hadn’t evolved into anything relatively close to what social networks are today. Working for Bebo in Austin, TX we mostly performed account moderation. What this means is whenever someones profile was reported for violating the Bebo TOS (Terms of Service) it was reported as abuse and we would investigate the profile and remove what content was in violation. As thought-provoking as that sounds, the more interesting aspect of my job was the comprehension of it all. Sometimes it was as easy as removing a picture or abusive content from a profile but other times it was far more sophisticated than that. At the time, Bebo like all other social networking websites had privacy settings. They were basic but they got the job done, sort of. The privacy settings then were meant to be as safe as they are intended to be now. Think of the security of them like this, it’s about as safe as locking your door using a key-code entry but leaving the code written on the door. Yes, the door is locked, but it doesn’t mean someone trying to get in can’t if they really wanted to. In fact, they could easily have access to your “private” account by simply performing a little research and/or investigation.
Social Network Privacy and The End-User
So, how did people wanting to access someones private account gain access? Well the answer to the question is a lot more simple than you think. It doesn’t involve any internet trickery or hacker’s jazz however, access to the victim’s profile was through the victim themselves! How do they do it? Well, let’s create a scenario. Say your profile is private right (if it’s not you should take care of this immediately) but maybe it’s not fully hidden. Let’s say your friends are showing and now this person knows who you associate with. Let’s say even if they can’t see your friends (you were smart enough to hide this information) but they know of people you associate with maybe through work, school, or your personal life. Now, they have a mask. They could easily look through your friends and/or people you know and find someone that doesn’t have a private profile. Then they will copy this persons profile information, pictures, friends list, and begin to borrow their identify. With 20 minutes of free-time, they will create a new account using this person’s online identify and begin adding friends. Within the first couple hours this profile looks legit and now, they are ready to target you. From here, it’s as easy as them sending you a friend request. You on the receiving end will recognize a familiar face and without hesitation add them as a friend. Now, they’re in. All defenses if any are down and you’re left to fend for yourself. You have just given them access to your personal information that you normally allow only your friends via the privacy settings to see. What can they do with this? Say its an old high school, college or work foe, say they want to sabotage your profile, abuse your other friends, or use your data for other illegal activities. Victims of stalkers beware!! Don’t say you weren’t warned. This is just some of the mess we had to clean up working for Bebo. There were countless tickets of abuse from members who’s profiles were compromised by this method of intrusion. I believe though had we educated end-users to take precautionary measures before they would friend just anyone, this wouldn’t have worked so well for the Sith (Star Wars reference). Now, my intention is to educate you, my readers of what to look out for and tips to keeping your online identify safe.
Online Security Tips
OK, I have shared with you how anyone with a little free time and motive can gain access to your profile. Now here are a 5 tips to staying safe on the internet:
- Screen Your Friend Requests – Don’t just add anyone! Click on their profile, make sure its not a duplicate and if it is, attempt to contact that person first before you simply add them.
- Activate Your Privacy Settings – Learn everything there is to know about Facebook and other social networking website’s privacy settings. Make sure you read through them thoroughly and lock down your profile as much as you can.
- Be Careful of What Information You Share – Yes, it is just a status update of a cool new spot in town. However, someone wanting to know where your at now knows exactly where to find you. This is dangerous information to be publicly broadcasting.
- Hide Your Profile Picture – This is an easy one. Simply use the default profile picture. Yea I know it won’t look as personalized but someone trying to target you will have a harder time identifying you.
- Make Sure You’re Not Searchable – The privacy settings should do this one for you but to be on the safe side, use a sudo name or middle name even.
What Have We Learned?
Use these tips to your advantage and remain safe online. The internet and social networking websites are not a bad thing. Just keep in mind that everyone on the internet is not who they say or may appear to be. Use precaution and practice safe internet habits and this will greatly decrease any chances of your profile and/or personal data being compromised. Far more important, share this article with others and help make the internet and social networking a safe place to be.