We all know there are imposters and fake accounts on Facebook. These people’s aims range from simple money scams to shilling for what may be a legitimate business that doesn’t even know their affiliate or employee is damaging their reputation. Their goals could be even more nefarious: social engineering for intelligence gathering. It isn’t just the NSA that’s social media savvy; criminals and terrorists have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, too.
This is not to say, “Be paranoid.” If you were properly paranoid, you’d have to live off the grid and probably hide in the dark in the back of your closet. And then, odds are, an earthquake or tornado would get you. (Please don’t do that. I’m sort of joking!)
But here’s a simple thing you can do on Facebook today to make it harder for bad people to exploit you and your friends:
- Click Friends.
- Click the Edit button (the one that looks like a pencil).
- Click Edit Privacy.
- Lock down your Friend List and Following.
Why? Surely, my friends’ friends are my friends? Unfortunately, having access to the entire list of a Facebook friend’s friends gives scammers the same “mutual friend” status as a real mutual friend. It gives them some credibility (particularly to people perusing their Friend requests before that second cup of coffee in the morning). It gives them access to the mutual friends’ Inbox. It makes real mutual friends vulnerable.
Having access to people and lists you follow gives good social engineers information about you and your interests that perhaps you are unaware they have. Your choice -my “Only Me,” above, probably doesn’t add much to my usual wariness, but doesn’t hurt anything, either, and keeps some people from jumping to conclusions.
Did you know that in order to comment on your least favorite politician’s Facebook page, you may have to click “Like”? That’s right – don’t assume your friends have lost their minds, just because they “Like” a politician you think is crazycakes. They may simply have chosen to engage them in a lively debate. (Or – maybe your friend’s a troll. I’m not here to judge, today.) Just beware of assuming too much on the strength of a Facebook “Like.”
If you want to go around hitting that “Like” button, do it on your real friends’ blog posts, comments, original photo shares, etc. – not the “sort of interesting crap found on the Internet.” Share this post – help your friends to protect their (and, by extension, your) privacy. Forget all those little viral hoaxes about posting notices about privacy and copyright – those aren’t real. Just don’t post any SECRETS on Facebook – even in a Closed or Secret group, online – that’s a much safer approach. Closed and Secret groups, like private email, are just less visible – but unless you’re using really good data encryption (and maybe even then) – just assume it’s all one failed server or “hack” away from public. Don’t post the final draft of your blockbuster, soon-to-be bestselling novel on Facebook. And don’t give scammers access to your Friend list.
Remember: The NSA can just get it straight from the fire hose at Facebook central. Your only goal, here, is to slow down the criminals.
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