The 8 Most Important Ways to Protect Your Identity and Privacy on Facebook: #3

3. Secure your account.
Facebook connects 700,000,000 people around the globe.  Some say it’s a tool to spread democracy in a viral way. Other people just see it as a way to tell strangers that you are “playing hooky”.

Our Facebook accounts have become, in many ways, our online selves. Our digital identities mirror our real identities in that there is some information we don’t want to share with everyone.  Even if you have your Facebook privacy settings literally set to “everyone”, you still may have private messages that you do not want public. Our challenge to share the right things with the right people. And to do that, you need to keep control over your account.

There are endless ways to hack unsecured accounts . While account cracking is a tough thing for a stranger to pull off, sloppy Facebooking can make it easy for your friends to take control of your account.

You’ve already secured your browsing. Now there are a few things you can do now to protect your Facebook.  They’re listed in order of importance.

Use a strong password NO ONE can guess and don’t let your browser remember it
Creating and remembering strong passwords isn’t easy. That’s why we recommend this simple system. And don’t let Firefox, or any browser you use, remember your passwords. To clear your passwords in Firefox, go to “Tools” then “Clear Private Data” the close and reopen Firefox.)

Use unique passwords for all of your important accounts (and update them every few months)
For any account that really matters—your email, your bank and credit card accounts, Facebook—you need to use a unique, strong password that you do not use for any other account. You should update the passwords of your most important accounts every few months, at least. If you recognize any suspicious account activity in your account, change your password immediately.

Make sure your system software and Internet security are updated
Updated system and Internet Security can’t stop you from making security mistakes or being the victim of social engineering. But it can prevent most of the common attacks out there. Our free Health Check will tell you if your PC is protected. Once you are updated, be sure to update your most important software including your OS, browser, media players and PDF reader on a regular basis either through our Health Check or the software developers’ sites.

Watch where you click and watch where you land
Always check the URL in your browser to make sure you’re on Facebook when you enter your private information. And if you ever have any doubt about something that has been posted in your newsfeed, follow the Golden Rule of Social Media Security and don’t click. More on the art of clicking in #6 of this guide.

Always log out
You’re not keeping hackers out by staying logged in. They still can get in and you’re leaving your account open for a snarky co-worker or invasive family member to pry. And once someone is inside your account, they can change your password to keep you out.

If you use Facebook’s mobile app, always lock your smartphone
Your phone can give an intruder access to your and your friends’ private information. An intruder could also post status updates and photos as you. This could simply embarrass your or cause actual harm to your career or private life. I also recommend using a remote lock software like our Free Anti-Theft for Mobile on your smartphone if you lose it.

How To Make Sure You Can Get Your Account Back If It Is Hacked

If you start using a new email account, update Facebook settings
If your account is hacked, you need access to the email account you have in your settings. If you can’t get into that email because it’s closed, you’ve just greatly limited your chance of recovering your account.

Consider doing what Facebook recommends

Facebook now rates how secure your account is. It’s a powerful feature, as long as you take it seriously. If your account “Overall Protection” is rated “low”, Facebook will prompt you to add some information. I suggest you do this though it will require adjusting your notifications so you won’t get messages from Facebook that you do not want to see.

Add a secondary email
Facebook asks for a secondary email. This helps Facebook because now it will be able to connect you with more friends. And it helps you if you ever lose access to your primary email, or if your primary email gets hacked. So only add  a secure email account with a unique password.

You can add your secondary email by going to “Account” > “Account Settings”> Find “Email” and click on “change”.

Add your mobile number
Adding your cell phone number gives you a secondary way to claim your hacked account. It also gives you the ability to get one-time passwords, which I’ll explain later. To change or add your mobile number, go here. On that same page, be sure to edit your notifications or Facebook will be texting you nonstop. Only activate your phone for this purpose if you keep it locked when it is not in use.

Add a strong security question
Make sure you choose a question that only you can answer. The last five digits of your driver’s license are probably better answer than the name of your first pet—since your friends and family may know that. The worst answer, of course, would be one that a stranger could figure out by looking at your profile.

For Extra Protection

Activate Account Protection
Want to be notified when a new computer logs into your account? Activate Account Protection. If someone gets into your account on a device you don’t recognize, you can login to Facebook and “end activity” on that login. Then you can, hopefully, change your password before the intruder does. Once you activate this feature, you’ll have to name every device you login from. It’s slightly annoying, but it gives you the kind of control of your account that will keep your account safe.

To activate Account Protection and “end activity” on any Facebook sessions you didn’t initiate, go to “Account” > “Account Settings”> Find “Account Protection” and click on “Save”.

Use Login Approval
You can prevent someone from logging into your account with Facebook’s new Login Approvals, as long as the attempted hacker doesn’t have access access to the mobile you have connected to your Facebook account. Login approval requires a new security code sent via SMS when you attempt to use your Facebook account from a new device. This requires a one-to-two minute setup on each device you use.

To activate Login Approvals, go to “Account” > “Account Settings”> Under “Login Approvals”, click the box for “Require me to enter a security code sent to my phone” then click  “Save”.

Use One-Time Passwords on public computers
If you use Facebook on public computers, such as at school or the library, you should use Facebook’s One-Time password feature. On a public computer, you have no idea what kinds of programs are running that could be used to log your account information. By using a unique password each time, you remove the risk that your credentials will be stolen.

To do this you need to set up and verify your SMS number. Go here and add in your mobile number. You’ll then need to verify the number by entering a code that will be sent to you. Once this is done, you can send a text message to 32665 with the message “otp” when you’re about to login on a public computer. Your One-Time Password will work for 20 minutes after you receive it.

Follow us on Facebook for ongoing tips on securing your account.

The 8 Most Important Ways to Protect Your Identity and Privacy on Facebook

  1. Unless you have a good reason not to, use the “Friends Only” privacy setting.
  2. Turn on Secure Browsing.
  3. Secure your account.
  4. Take a look at what others see when they see you and decide if you want search engines to find your profile.
  5. Turn off Instant Personalization and audit your apps.
  6. Watch where you click.
  7. Decide if you want your name and image to appear in Facebook ads.
  8. Start using Facebook lists.

More posts from this topic


Did a funny test in Facebook? Time to clean the permissions.

You are precious. You are very valuable. At least to companies dealing in advertising and customer profiling. The value of you and your peers make giants like Google and Facebook tick, with a combined revenue of about $78 billion. I’m sure most of you understand this value. But how many are really making smart choices to guard it? If you’re on Facebook, you may have seen posts like this: “Your Friday night. Tina wants to sleep. Jan destroys furniture. Aaron wakes up handcuffed. Wilhelm starts a drinking competition.” Clicking the image takes you to, or a localized version in your own language. Once there you can create your own test that reveals funny things about you and your friends. It’s obvious that these test are more entertaining than scientific. And this site can’t be blamed for lacking fantasy! Who thinks you’re sweet? How many children will you have? Who should you write a love song for? Who of your friends belong in your stuffed animal collection? Stuffed animal collection! OMG. LOL. :) You can find out all this and much more with the tests at The site is operated by a German company named Socialsweethearts, that claim to have over 1500 tests in more than 40 languages! OK, just another funny and harmless site that creates virally spreading posts and cashes in on advertising, you might think. But let’s take a closer look at what’s going on here. Many of the test involve your friends, revealing whom would be or do something. And to provide this they must know who your friends are, right? So it’s perfectly legit when a dialog pops up asking for access to your Facebook account and friends list. Wait! This is where you should stop and think. Let’s rephrase what’s going on. You purchase an automatically generated joke about you and your friends and pay by allowing them access to your friend list and Facebook wall, including all your past, current and future posts. A good deal? No, I don’t think so. And on top of that, you pay with knowledge about all your friends too, but without asking them for permission. Ok, Socialsweethearts is a German company, and Germany has strong privacy laws. I think there is a pretty good chance that this company isn’t misusing your data shamelessly, even if they definitively has the technical opportunity to do so. But this is pure luck. I bet that virtually none of the folks using these tests actually checked the background of the company and made an educated decision to trust it. Did you? But on the other hand. Pretty much all the giants that make billions on our private data are from the Americas. Europe has totally lost this race. A German company entering the same business successfully would be bright news, sort of. Bad news for your privacy but good news from European business perspective. So don’t worry too much if you have used the services on But this is anyway an excellent opportunity to clean up the list of apps that have access to your data. In Facebook, go to Settings and choose Apps in the menu to the left. Now you see a list of all apps and sites that have been granted access. Some of them are no doubt legit, for example apps that should be able to post to your wall. But the permissions will stay when you stop using something. And some permissions are only needed on a one-time basis, but they will stay on the list. belongs to that category and should be erased. Go through the list and remove anything you don’t need. If you see something that you don’t understand the meaning of, it’s safest to remove it too. Permissions can always be added back and apps that lose their permissions will notify you and ask you to grant new permissions. Happy cleaning, Micke   [caption id="attachment_8485" align="alignnone" width="300"] This is what it looks like when want's permission to access your data in Facebook.[/caption]   Images: Screenshots from and  

September 21, 2015

Only 10% protected – Interesting study on travelers’ security habits

Kaisu who is working for us is also studying tourism. Her paper on knowledge of and behavior related to information security amongst young travelers was released in May, and is very interesting reading. The world is getting smaller. We travel more and more, and now we can stay online even when travelling. Using IT-services in unknown environments does however introduce new security risks. Kaisu wanted to find out how aware young travelers are of those risks, and what they do to mitigate them. The study contains many interesting facts. Practically all, 95,7%, are carrying a smartphone when travelling. One third is carrying a laptop and one in four a tablet. The most commonly used apps and services are taking pictures, using social networks, communication apps and e-mail, which all are used by about 90% of the travelers. Surfing the web follows close behind at 72%. But I’m not going to repeat it all here. The full story is in the paper. What I find most interesting is however what the report doesn’t state. Everybody is carrying a smartphone and snapping pictures, using social media, surfing the web and communicating. Doesn’t sound too exotic, right? That’s what we do in our everyday life too, not just when travelling. The study does unfortunately not examine the participants’ behavior at home. But I dare to assume that it is quite similar. And I find that to be one of the most valuable findings. Traveling is no longer preventing us from using IT pretty much as we do in our everyday life. I remember when I was a kid long, long ago. This was even before invention of the cellphone. There used to be announcements on the radio in the summer: “Mr. and Mrs. Müller from Germany traveling by car in Lapland. Please contact your son Hans urgently.” Sounds really weird for us who have Messenger, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Skype installed on our smartphones. There was a time when travelling meant taking a break in your social life. Not anymore. Our social life is today to an increasing extent handled through electronic services. And those services goes with us when travelling, as Kaisu’s study shows. So you have access to the same messaging channels no matter where you are on this small planet. But they all require a data connection, and this is often the main challenge. There are basically two ways to get the data flowing when abroad. You can use data roaming through the cellphone’s ordinary data connection. But that is often too expensive to be feasible, so WiFi offers a good and cheap alternative. Hunting for free WiFi has probably taken the top place on the list of travelers’ concerns, leaving pickpockets and getting burnt in the sun behind. Another conclusion from Kaisu’s study is that travelers have overcome this obstacle, either with data roaming or WiFi. The high usage rates for common services is a clear indication of that. But how do they protect themselves when connecting to exotic networks? About 10% are using a VPN and about 20% say they avoid public WiFi. That leaves us with over 70% who are doing something else, or doing nothing. Some of them are using data roaming, but I’m afraid most of them just use whatever WiFi is available, either ignoring the risks or being totally unaware. That’s not too smart. Connecting to a malicious WiFi network can expose you to eavesdropping, malware attacks, phishing and a handful other nasty tricks. It’s amazing that only 10% of the respondents have found the simple and obvious solution, a VPN. It stands for Virtual Private Network and creates a protected “tunnel” for your data through the potentially harmful free networks. Sounds too nerdy? No, it’s really easy. Just check out Freedome. It’s the super-simple way to be among the smart 10%.   Safe surfing, Micke   PS. I recently let go of my old beloved Nokia Lumia. Why? Mainly because I couldn’t use Freedome on it, and I really want the freedom it gives me while abroad.   Image by Moyan Brenn  

August 24, 2015

Forget the personality tests – Ask Facebook instead (Poll)

It’s amazing how advertising can power huge companies. Google has over 57 000 employees and some 66 billion US dollars in revenue. And Facebook with 12 billion and 10 000 employees. These two giants are the best know providers of ad-financed services on the net. And modern advertising is targeted, which means that they must know what the users want to see. Which means that they must know you. Let’s take a closer look at Facebook. We have already written about their advertising preferences and I have been following my data for some time. Part of the data used to target ads is input by yourself, age, gender, hometown, movies you seen etc. But Facebook also analyzes what you do, both in Facebook and on other sites, to find out what you like. It’s obvious how the tracking works inside Facebook itself. Their servers just simply record what links you click. Tracking in the rest of the net is more sinister, it’s described in this earlier post. Your activity record is analyzed and you are assigned to classes of interest, called “Your Ad Preferences” by Facebook. Advertisers can then select classes they want to target, and the ad may be shown to you based on these classes. You can view and manage the list using a page that is fairly well hidden deep in Facebook’s menus. Let’s check your preferences in moment, but first some thoughts about this. Advertising may be annoying, but it is the engine that drives so many “free” services nowadays. So I’m not going to blame Facebook for being ad-financed. I’m not going to blame them for doing targeted ads either. That can in theory be a good thing, you see more relevant ads that potentially can be of value to you. But any targeted ad scheme must be based on data collection, and this is the tricky part. Can we trust Facebook et al. to handle these quite extensive personal profiles and not misuse them for other purposes? It’s also nice that Facebook is somewhat open about this and let you view “Your Ad Preferences” (Note. Not available in all countries.). But that name is really misleading. The name should be “Facebook’s Ad Preferences for You”. Yes, you can view and delete classes, but that gives you a false sense of control. Facebook keeps analyzing what you do and deleted classes will reappear shortly. I made a full clean-up a couple of months ago, but now I have no less than 210 classes of interest again! This is really amazing if you take into account that I block tracking outside of Facebook, so those activities are not contributing. And I have a principle of not clicking ads in any on-line media, including Facebook. And liking commercial pages in a very restrictive manner. But the thing is that Facebook has realized that people dislike ads. “Suggested posts” or “Sponsored posts” are in fact masqueraded ads and any interaction with them will record your interest in the classes they represent. I have to admit that I do click this kind of content regularly. And where did that suicide thing come from? No, I’m fine. I’m not going to jump off a bridge and I’m not worried about any of my dearests’ mental health. I have not interacted with any kind of Facebook content related to suicide. Except that I can’t know that for sure. Facebook tries to give an open and honest image of itself when presenting its Ad Preferences settings and the possibilities to manage them. But this rosy picture is not the full truth. The inner workings of Facebook advertising is in reality a very complex secret system. When you interact with something on Facebook, you have no way of knowing how it affects your profile. Something I have clicked was apparently associated with suicides even if I had no clue about it. Ok, time to take the Facebook personality test. Let’s see what kind of person they think you are. Follow these instructions: Go to Facebook and locate an ad, a “sponsored post” or a “suggested post”. These items should have a cross or a down-arrow in the upper right corner. Click it. Select “Why am I seeing this?” from the pop-up menu. This screen contains some interesting info but proceed to “Manage your ad preferences”. Review the list and come back here to tell us what you think of it. Delete the inappropriate classes. Deleting all may reduce the number of ads you see.   So let’s see what people think about this test’s accuracy:   [polldaddy poll=9023953]   So using Facebook’s Ad Preferences as a personality test may be entertaining, but not very accurate after all. You should probably look elsewhere for a real test. The catch is that you can select what test to take, but not how others collect data about you. Someone else may rely on this test when evaluating you. You have actually granted Facebook the right to share this data with basically anyone. Remember this clause in the agreement that you read and approved before signing up? “We transfer information to vendors, service providers, and other partners who globally support our business, such as providing technical infrastructure services, analyzing how our Services are used, measuring the effectiveness of ads and services, providing customer service, facilitating payments, or conducting academic research and surveys.” You did read it before signing, didn’t you?   Safe surfing, Micke   Image: Screenshot from  

August 13, 2015