Let’s face it, any website that houses the daily drama of over 1 billion users1 is going to become a pretty huge target for myriad hackers, pranksters, and scam artists alike. That’s right, Facebook has over a billion users, most of whom have no idea how to protect themselves. According to a report by the Escapist Magazine, over 600,000 Facebook accounts are compromised every single day2. Want to avoid becoming a statistic? Following these simple guidelines will greatly reduce your vulnerability and help you stay as safe as possible.
Use Strong Facebook Passwords
No matter how many security measures you take, if you don’t use a strong Facebook password, your door is wide open. Strong passwords should contain at least 8 characters and have a mixture of lower- and upper-case letters, symbols, and numbers. Too hard to remember? Why not try using phonetics? For example, tooeasy123 is a bad password. But To03asy!2E is a fantastic one.
Contrary to popular practice, passwords should always be something random and unrelated to you. Too often, people use their pet’s name, their child’s name, or a hobby. Keep in mind that such things are easy to guess or look up. Also, if your password can be found in a dictionary, it will easily fall prey to a simple dictionary attack. Again, obfuscating phrases with numbers and symbols is a great way to strengthen your passwords.
We also recommend changing your passwords about once every 3 months. If you have trouble remembering passwords, you might consider using a password manager such as 1Password or LastPass to help you keep track.
Think Before You Click That Link!
If a friend sends you a link via email, text message, or instant message, make certain that you know what you are clicking on before you do it. Short links such as bitly are especially vulnerable, since you are not given any clues as to what you are clicking on before it’s too late. Don’t worry, your friends will understand (and often appreciate) when you ask them what they are sending you. Often when an account gets compromised, the original owner may not even be aware that links are being sent out in their name. If they don’t remember sending any links, chances are good that they have been compromised (and you just avoided sharing in all the hassle!)
Don’t Believe Everything You Receive
I always tell people – never send anything via email that you do not want to see on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow morning. Even as the Internet has evolved, email itself remains one of the most insecure protocols on the planet.
It is frighteningly simple to spoof email and make it appear to come from somebody that had nothing at all to do with it. We’ve all probably received a scam email or two from a “stranded Nigerian prince” who just needs us to help him out so he can get back to his fortune and reward us for our random assistance. This has become one of the most tired scams in the book.
But thanks to Facebook, we are now seeing a fun little twist to this tale of sorrow and woe. Instead of appearing to originate from someone in Nigeria, the latest strategy is to pose as one of your friends from your Facebook friends list! Be aware that the next time one of your friends appears to be asking for a big favor via email, it is likely a scam. Before you click on any links or respond to the message, always call your friend and make sure that it is real.
These guidelines will help start you down the path towards better Facebook (and Internet) security. However, always remember that security is a constant battle. Hackers and scammers are very clever opponents, by definition. We must always be vigilant and keep our eyes open for suspicious behavior. Facebook’s Help Center offers a wide array of additional security suggestions and tips. And of course, Appletree MediaWorks is always available to assist in keeping your accounts secure.
1. Forbes reported in October of 2012 that Facebook now has an account for one out of every seven people on planet earth.
2. Reported by The Escapist Magazine in October of 2011, these numbers were first compiled into an infographic by Sophos Security. It is worth noting that although 600,000 is a very large number, it is only .06% of Facebook’s total user base.