4 Easy Ways to Protect Yourself From Facebook Hackers
How to protect yourself from a breach while on the beach
All those summer beach pics you’re posting on Facebook could be putting your personal information at risk. Let’s not forget the Cambridge Analytica data incident, which includes an ongoing federal investigation, that put Facebook users in a tizzy two months ago. Investigators are looking into the sharing of the personal data of 71 million Americans by Facebook with the political consulting firm.
The truth about the incident is that it was more a misuse of information than a breach. That is, Facebook users had agreed to share their information with a quiz application; the owners of that application then used the information “unethically,” selling the information of those opt-in users as well as information about their friends (who had not made a choice to opt-in). Two points matter here. First, Facebook privacy settings that allowed information to be collected about the friends of those who opted in have been reset — Facebook tightened its privacy settings on information sharing several years ago. Second and the worse infraction in the Cambridge Analytica brouhaha is that the firm sold all the information it collected (about those who opted in and their friends) to marketers. This specifically went against Facebook’s information collection rules.
Here’s a newsflash about social media and your information: hackers using social media accounts to get personal information is not news. In fact, hackers are so practiced at it that we know they follow two traditional routes:
Route 1: Hackers hijack a website’s login box. On the back end of what appears to be a secure website, hackers can change the code that tells your login information where to go. That, in turn, redirects your username and password to the hacker. They can also hack the “remember me” box that saves your login information for future use and deposit tracking code (“cookies”) on your computer that will, ongoing, collect data from your browser.
Route 2: They can create URLs (the “www” address) that look like the one you want but, in fact, are fake (they have tiny typos in them). If you click through from a link in an email or message, you likely wouldn’t notice the tiny changes. Once you’re on this fake website, the hackers drop malware into your browser. From there, they collect your information.
Because hackers can buy computer programs that make their jobs easier, we must to find ways to make their jobs harder. We need to do this in all online social media arenas, but since Facebook has more than 1.9 billion users and is, by far, the largest social network, let’s start there.
1. Use a Passphrase Not a Password
Passwords do not keep our information safe. I repeat: Passwords do not keep our information safe. Hackers have access to software that allows them to rapidly cycle through all the random letters, numbers, and special characters people use. However, the software’s math has a harder time deciphering phrases. For example, if you tell Google Chrome to make up a password for you, it probably looks like this “F65SW3r*aE^x.” This password uses math to create something randomly generated. Since hacker software programs work at duplicating math, they can figure out this kind of mathematically created password given enough time. Instead of making up a “password,” create a “passphrase” such as “Myf@voritec0lorisblu3,” which has personal rather than mathematical meaning.
2. Don’t Click on Direct Messages
Never click on video files or any links sent through direct message, even if they seem like they’re from a friend or a legitimate business. More and more hackers are using your friends’ Facebook pages to send links that then download malware.
3. Use the App
Believe it or not, the mobile apps are safer than using the web browsers. Even the safest browsers, i.e., Chrome and Firefox, are more susceptible to malware.
4. Be Wary of Email Notifications
If you receive Facebook notifications through email, never click on the links in the email to read the updates. Open your application and click on your notifications button instead.
When we hear about huge data breaches from companies such as Equifax (almost a year ago) and Exactis (June 2018) we feel at the mercy of the companies with whom we share data. Since we can’t control what the companies or others do, we need to be more vigilant about our own actions. And let’s underscore here, that these tips will not secure you from big company data breaches because we have no control there.
If you want to go even further with managing your Facebook account’s privacy settings, check out this step-by-step guide from Pixel Privacy.
Karen Walsh is a lawyer who writes about information security for a variety of B2B companies as well as a core contributor at GeekMom. You can connect with her on Twitter account for ramblings and jokes about information security, comics, and parenting.
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