Keep Your Facebook Secure
In just a short span of years, Facebook has taken over as the most popular site on the entire internet. Just the other day, Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerburg (a year younger than me!) pledged to give 100 million dollars as his first philanthropic act as a wealthy bastard. So chances are, you or someone you know has a Facebook account. It’s so popular as to have been mentioned in several movies, tv programs, and song lyrics.
While I hope you haven’t had the misfortune of having your Facebook account hacked, it has been known to happen. First of all, let’s be clear on what “hacked” means:
Hacked – “Hacking (English verb to hack, singular noun a hack) refers to the re-configuring or re-programming of a system to function in ways not facilitated by the owner,administrator, or designer. The term(s) have several related meanings in the technology and computer science fields, wherein a “hack” may refer to a clever or quick fix to a computer program problem, or to what may be perceived to be a clumsy or inelegant (but usually relatively quick) solution to a problem, such as a “kludge“.
The terms “hack” and “hacking” are also used to refer to a modification of a program or device to give the user access to features that were otherwise unavailable, such as by circuit bending. It is from this usage that the term “hacking” is often used to refer to more nefarious criminal uses such as identity theft, credit card fraud or other actions categorized as computer crime.” – Source: Wikipedia
So when I say “hacked,” I mean defaced or otherwise taken out of your control by someone you didn’t want to do that. Usually, there are two ways Facebook accounts get hacked. The first is through an angered person who knows you well or otherwise you trusted with your password. Think of your password like the keys to your house. You wouldn’t just give these to casual friends, so be sure you don’t share your password or say silly things out loud like “Oh! 1234, that’s the same password I use EVERYWHERE.”
A Word on Passwords
A large number of people (I don’t have a statistic on hand) use the same password, a handful of passwords or a variant on every single website to which they login. As you read that just now, did you feel a little guilty? “Oh, I’m no one important, why would they want my password to my Facebook?” Not a big deal, unless you also use that password on your online banking account. Also not a big deal, unless you keep personal details in your Facebook account settings that may be used to pretend to be you when they call the bank.
What can you do to secure your password but still be lazy? Build a pattern to use for a password instead. You could use the same base password everywhere, but in front or on the end attach something that signifies what site you’re using it on. For example, if you use “donthackme” as your password everywhere you could change it when you’re at BankOfAmerica.com to “BOAdonthackme!” It’s a good idea to throw in a non-alphabet symbol like the exclamation mark (!). Once you figure out a pattern that works for you, you’ve got a “different” password to use at each site.
Adding “Friends” (And By Friends, I Mean Everyone)
There are lots of reasons people add people as friends on Facebook:
- “Bookmarking” someone who seems interesting (celebrities and their ilk) who may not have a Fan page.
- You’re old High School friends.
- Workplace / Church / Evil Research Lab colleagues.
- Friends of Friends who seem interesting.
- Friends of Friends who are attractive and you want to see their photos but they don’t just share them with everyone.
- People who you’ve bumped into once in Wal-mart and saw their name tag.
- You just don’t feel complete inside unless you connect with everyone ever.
Think about your Facebook account like a party in your house. Do you really want to invite EVERYONE you’ve ever known or contacted, ever? It’s truly up to you, but it’s not the safest idea to just let anyone see all of your personal life that you post to Facebook (that’s a post for another time) – but if you do post a lot of your life on Facebook, consider your audience and whether or not Bob from Wal-mart is really someone whose status updates you want to read, much less have him read yours.
That said, also consider your privacy settings on photos, videos, status updates, and anything else you do. If you want to shut out some people but not others, consider using Facebook’s friends list feature to categorize your friends.
Games and Applications
When you go to play a Facebook game (such as Farmville or Mafia Wars, etc.) or add an application, be sure to carefully read what access permissions you’ve just signed over in order to play the game. Can it update your status for you? Can it post things to your news feed or your wall? Will it spam your friends? Does it get access to your contact information? Does it have permission to e-mail you? Does it ask you to pay for things with your credit card (such as reward points, loyalty coins, etc)? Does it ask you to install any additional software like toolbars or plugins? These are great ways to get infected with a virus or have your identity stolen.
If you’ve already given an application access permissions that you don’t want it to have, you can always go to Application Settings in your account settings and change its permissions, or remove the application completely.
Facebook is a great website and I have a lot of fun using it as I’m sure many of you do. Just be safe, make smart decisions, and remember to never give away the keys to your house to strangers.