A recent report by WatchGuard Security noted that the riskiest social media application is Facebook. This is not a surprise to many of us who deal with Internet security. It may, however, surprise those who use Facebook on a regular basis. Especially those who bare their souls about very personal issues in their lives, and have proudly filled in every personal information blank on their profiles. It’s this openness, in this world of identity theft and other cybercrime, that make the 500+ million Facebook users a dream come true to the cybercrime industry.
The two primary ways Facebook users are vulnerable to cybercrime are:
1. exposing enough personal information in posts, comments and their user profile to allow a cybercriminal to impersonate them to their banks and credit card companies in order to steal their money; and
2. using phishing attacks such as a fake status or comment supposedly from another Facebook user, most probably a friend, that lures them to a website that will infect their computer with dangerous malware…again, to steal their money.
Facebook users participate in Facebook to communicate, share information, and so forth; primarily because they trust that everyone else on Facebook is as peaceful and law abiding as they are. And why not? Facebook was designed to be used with an implied trust among friends; that’s what has made it so enormously popular. What a déjà vu moment!
You see, the foundational problem with cybercrime on the Internet is that it too was designed and built based on an implied trust among the research organizations it was built to serve. The government and higher-education based scientists all knew each other and therefore didn’t fear that any harm would ever come to them as result of using this fantastic medium.
I know, I know…trust is supposed to be a good thing; so why is this a problem? The problem is that cybercriminals take advantage of that trust by travelling throughout the Internet, including Facebook (and all the social media applications for that matter), with the ability to impersonate someone else or to act anonymously if they choose, without any checks and balances to keep them honest. In other words we are participating in an Internet (including Facebook) based on trust when we should not be trusting the criminals.
Facebook and other social media applications are finally trying to patch this situation to keep it’s followers safer, but just as is the case with the Internet, these security patches, read Band-Aids, will not be very effective because of the underlying design based on trust.
Therefore, my advice to the Facebook and other social media application users is to use them with a mentality based on distrust…yes, distrust! Before you post anything; consider, and assume, that cybercriminals will see what you say and use it to steal from you. Also, visit your profile and delete all personal information, including where you live. I know that these suggestions will somehow lower the fun potential you may experience; but you must protect yourself and your assets in any way you can.
I feel compelled to point out that I’m a Facebook user and that I don’t hate Facebook. I write about these weaknesses and vulnerabilities, not to harm Facebook, but to try to help you protect yourself.
As always, remember to be careful…it’s dangerous out there.
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Remember, home computing is a blast…keep it safe, productive and enjoyable.