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Let’s Face(book) it. Everyone shares too much info on the web.

From Cambridge Analytica Data misuse to daily hacking, what you share on social media is a veritable orchard of private in formation waiting to be harvested. The primary way that your data is grabbed is by answering all those posts that seem harmless. You’ve seen these posts from your “friends” asking for your response: what was the name of your first pet, where did you go on your first airplane ride, what was your first car, etc. Those posts circulate quickly, allowing hackers to gather data about you. They then build a profile about you, and what they do from there is up to the hacker. But bottom line, you are giving away your information every time you click on, answer, or ‘Like’ a post.

What happens with your Facebook profile is entirely up to you, IF you’re willing to take a little extra time to look into your security options and settings. If one of your friends tags you in a photo from last Saturday night, it’s simple to un-tag yourself — or even set your privacy settings so that you never get tagged at all. By digging into your privacy and notification settings, as well as looking into the apps that you have downloaded and connected through Facebook, you can make sure nobody ever sees anything you don’t want them to see, and you’re notified the second anybody else says anything about you.

Most of us don’t bother to check the privacy settings in detail. But given the recent issues involving Facebook, you’d be wise to look into your privacy setting details. You can choose the security level of each part of your profile, and can keep security risks to a minimum while still using the site.

Facebook states in its privacy policy that users can choose which information remains private. But it also points out that although it provides privacy protection, no system is perfect. It’s possible for hackers to find ways around safeguards and access information. It’s a good idea to do a little research about an app before you choose to incorporate it into your profile. If an app tries to take you to a new page, pay attention to that page’s domain name. Some scammers are clever enough to create a mock-up of a real Facebook page with a request for your password. If the domain name seems fishy, you shouldn’t provide your password. Pop-up messages that advise you to download or install an additional application after you’ve already started the process is another potential sign of malware. Installing these programs may infect your computer with a virus.

Here are some tips to stay safe on social media:

  1. Use a strong password.  The longer and more complicated, the more secure it will be. And now that you are reading this, take the opportunity to change your password.
  2. Use a different password for each of your accounts. And not just for social media accounts but for ALL of your websites that require passwords. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, do not use the same password for every site.
  3. Set up a two factor authentication for signing into a site. Most social media sites have this as an option.
  4. If you have social media apps on your phone, be sure to password protect your device.
  5. Be selective with friend requests. If you don’t know the person, don’t accept their request.  It could be a fake account.
  6. Click links with caution.  Social media accounts are regularly hacked. Look out for language or content that does not sound like something your friend would post.
  7. Be careful about what you share. Don’t reveal sensitive personal information i.e.: home address, financial information, phone number.  The more you post, the easier it is to have your identity stolen. If you answer a post ‘what was your first phone number?,” or “what was the name of your college mascot?” are you providing clues for what your password is?
  8. Become familiar with the privacy policies of the social media channels you use and customize your privacy settings to control who sees what.
  9. Protect your computer by installing antivirus software.  Also ensure that your browser, operating system, and software are kept up to date.
  10. Remember to log off when you are finished with the site.
  11. Never ever click on coupon or prize links that seem too good to be true! Wave your mouse over links before you click them and see what the link is and determine if it’s not at a legitimate web site.  If the site doesn’t seem correct, don’t click it.
  12. Check your list of your apps. Make sure anything that was recently installed was installed by you. If you are not absolutely sure what the app does, delete it.

    Like Farming

    These days, ‘Liking’ on Facebook may get you more than you bargain for; it could get your page plagued with ads and offers that you don’t want and, at worst, could put malware on your computer or provide your personal data to unscrupulous scammers.

    It’s called ‘Like-Farming.’  Like-Farming is when scammers post an attention-grabbing story on Facebook for the express purpose of cultivating ‘Likes’ and ‘Shares.’ Based on the way Facebook works, the more likes and shares a post has, the more likely it is to show up in people’s news feeds. This gives the scammer more eyeballs for posts that trick people out of information or send them to malicious downloads.

    What the ‘Farmers’ want to harvest is as many ‘Likes’ as possible in whatever way they can. It often begins with spreading a positive message or something similar and then uses all the “Likes” to spread to others’ Facebook feeds.

    Have you ever ‘Liked’ or ‘Shared’ any of these scenarios or posts:

    • A tug at your heart-strings: A small child is pictured with no hair.  “Sally” has (fill-in-the-blank) disease. “Please like this page to show you think she’s beautiful and help lift her spirits”.
    • This government policy stinks! “Share” if you agree! 
    • An inspirational message to help your friends have a good day.
    • Played a quick game such as name a fish that doesn’t have the letter “T” in it –Post your answer below.  

    PRIZES PRIZES PRIZES

    Remember, all those posts that seem too good to be true, ARE too good to be true. You won’t get free airline tickets on Southwest, United or any other airline for that matter by simply clicking ‘Like.’ While there are no free airline tickets, there is malware in those “get details” links – where you’ll be required to provide personal information that, at the very least, will result in more conning come-ons.

    How the Scam Works

    Chain e-mails have taken the place of chain mail. And Facebook is the vehicle for the chain. It spreads virally, no longer taking days, months or weeks to circulate, through Facebook, it spreads in a matter of seconds. Your friend posts a link for “Free” government grant money or free Ray-Bans.  Or you see a post that Facebook has changed its algorithm to limit your news feed to only 26 friends. You are instructed to copy and paste the message on your wall.

    Since Facebook places a high value on popularity, these highly ‘Liked’ and ‘Shared’ pages begin to appear in your friend’s Facebook feed and then begin to be seen by other Facebook users. The false information is now viral and hackers can compile a list of people who did as they were instructed. No matter if you Liked it, Shared it, or Agreed with it, once the page has a sufficiently high popularity rating, the Like-Farmer either removes the page’s original content (just the picture of the poor little girl is enough) and replaces it with something else, usually malware or scam advertising.  The rest of the page remains the same and the hacker uses this as a platform for continued Like-Farming in order to spread malware, collect people’s marketing information or engage in other harmful activities.  Or, scammers being scammers, they may outright sell the highly ‘Liked’ site to cyber-criminals in a black market web forum.

    How to Avoid Like-Farming

    Your best bet to avoid Like-Farming is to be very judicious about what you Like and Share on Facebook. Don’t just reflexively click ‘Like’ on everything. Take a look at where the post is coming from. Is it from someone you don’t recognize, a friend of a friend or is it a complete stranger? It would be good to find out.

    Remember, if an app or a product is free to you, then you are the product.  Be careful what information you provide.

    In the future when left to decide whether to ‘Like’ or not: think of good old Dr. Seuss and his book, Green Eggs and Ham.

    I do not Like them

    in a house.

    I do not Like them

    with a mouse.

    I do not Like them

    here or there.

    I do not Like them

    anywhere.

    I do not Like green eggs and ham (or fake Facebook sites)

    I do not Like them, Sam-I-am.