Hit the Reset Button: A New Guide to Facebook Safety and Privacy

Facebook is now in the process of releasing dramatic updates to its ever-evolving privacy features. These updates contain some new tools to help secure your privacy and online identity. And if you haven’t reviewed your settings recently, now it the perfect time to do so.

How do  you know if the new features are available to you? Go to Account> Privacy Settings. If you see the settings above, you’re in.

F-Secure Labs Security Advisor Sean Sullivan walked me through the updates, identifying the most relevant changes for cautious users. Based on what we’ve found, here’s what you need to do now—if you haven’t already—to secure your Facebook account.

1. Secure your PC and password.
How to do it:
A. Update your system and security software. Our Health Check makes this easy.
B. Choose a password that can’t be guessed. Make it a password that you only use for this account and none of your “friends” will able to guess. Don’t choose a word in the dictionary or any word mentioned on your profile. Here’s system that our Labs recommend.

Why?
Updated Windows 7 or Mac OSX software along with updated security software will protect you from most threats in case you ever make a mistake online. I also recommend you back up your data in a remote location (off-site physical backup or online backup) for complete protection.

2. Go “Friends Only”.
How to do it:
A. Go to Account> Privacy Settings.
B. Under “Control Your Default Settings” click “Friends.”

Why?
Go with “Friends Only” because you can now choose how to share any post or picture with “Public”, the maximum audience, “Friends” or “Custom”. Custom includes options to select specific friends, “Friends of Friends” or “only me.” Or you can block specific people from each post. You can make this decision each time you post. So start it’s smart to start with the safest setting just in case you post something you shouldn’t have.

Also, you can now change the privacy setting of any old post or media you posted. This is a good new addition. However, certain things like your name, friends lists and the comments you make on Facebook pages will always be public.

You can decide how and who can find and contact you on Facebook in your Privacy settings by clicking “Edit Settings” for “How You Connect”.

3. Hit the “reset button” and turn all your past posts to “Friends Only”.
How to do it:
A. Go to Account> Privacy Settings>
B. Next to “Limit the Audience for Past Posts” click “Manage Past Post Visibility”.
C. In the pop-up, click “Limit Old Posts”.
D. In the next pop-up, click “Confirm”.

Why?
Why not? You can always change an old post to make it public again if necessary. Anything you share on Facebook can be reshared in some way by anyone who has access it. With this one step you’re saying I only want my friends who I trust to have access to everything I’ve done on Facebook. Facebook assumes you know your friends. That’s the official word in a recent official Guide to Facebook Security (PDF).

Of course, Facebook also profits from social games that flourish because people friend new people ravenously. So it’s a good idea to give your Friends List a quick scan and unfriend anyone you don’t know or trust—unless you’re a game player. Then you should know that Facebook appreciates your business but isn’t designed to protect your privacy

4. Turn on Profile Review to approve all posts and pictures tagged with your name before they’re posted on your wall.
How to do it:
A. Go to Account> Privacy Settings.
B. Next to “How Tags Work” click “Edit Settings”.
C. In the “How Tags Work” pop-up, click “Edit” next to “Profile Review”.
D. In the next pop-up, click “Turn on Profile Review”.

Why?
Anyone on Facebook can now tag you in a photo or a post. With Profile Review, you’ll be able to decide which photos and posts tagged with your name show up on your wall.

While you’re on the “How Tags Work” pop-up, you may also want to disable “Friends Can Check You Into Places”. This won’t stop someone from saying you’re at a bar on your lunch break, but it may prevent your friends from seeing such a fictional check in. If you don’t want Facebook to put you in its facial database to recognize you when you appear in your Friends pictures, click “Edit” next “Tag Suggestions” on the “How Tags Work” pop-up. Then select “Disable”.

5. Set your Account Security.
How to do it:
A. Go to Account> Account Settings>
B. On the left-hand column, click “Security”.
C. Click “Edit” next to the “Security Question”. Pick a question only you will be able to answer.
D. Click “Edit” next to “Secure Browsing”. Click the box next to “Browse Facebook on a secure connection (https) when possible” and then click Save Changes. You’re browsing will now be secured when it can be.
(Many apps and games are not yet updated for secure browsing. Using these may boot you out of Secure Browsing. But Facebook seems to put you back into secure browsing as soon as it can.)
E. For extra protection, click “Edit” next to Login Approvals. Then click the box next to “Require me to enter a security code each time an unrecognized computer or device tries to access my account” and click Save Changes. This will create a little hassle but could also prevent your account from being hacked.

Why?
These tools are the extra protection you need to greatly reduce the chances of your account being hacked. And if you do get hacked, an active secondary email account and a good security question will help you get it back.

6. Turn off Public Search
How to do it:
A. Go to Account> Privacy Settings>
B. Next to “Apps and Websites” click “Edit Settings”.
C. Next to “Public search”, click “Edit Settings”.
D. Make sure the box next to “Enable public search” is NOT checked.

Why?
Do you want your Facebook page to be the first thing to come up if an employer, an ex or your mom does a Google search of you? If your answer is yes, click that box. If not, limit the ability to find you within Facebook and Facebook apps.

7. Click with caution.
How to do it:
A. Think twice before you ever click the “Post” button.
B. Think thrice before you click on the links posted by friends.

Why?
Clicking on a bad link could expose you to malware or scams. This is when you need your updated software to protect you most. For extra protection, use our free ShareSafe App to share links with your Facebook friends. You’ll even earn points that can be used to win rewards.

8. Limit the information shared with Apps.
How to do it:
A. Go to Account> Privacy Settings>
B. Next to “Apps and Websites” click “Edit Settings”.
C. Next to “Apps you use”, click “Edit Settings”.
D. Click the “X” box to delete any app you aren’t using.
F. Go back to App settings, and click “Edit Settings” next to “How people bring your info to apps they use”. Uncheck every box and click Save Change.
E. For extra protection, turn off all applications until you need them. Do this by clicking “Turn off all platform apps” in the Apps, Games and Websites settings.
F. For even more protection, turn off “Instant Personalization” which automatically shares your public information with Facebook’s partner sites. Do this clicking Edit Settings next to “Instant personalization”. UNCHECK the box next to “Enable instant personalization on partner websites.”

Why?
When you’re dealing with apps, you’re dealing with third-party developers who you may not know or trust. The actual language Facebook uses to clarify how and when your information may be shared through apps and friends is difficult to decipher.

The more you limit the data you’re sharing, the more control over your identity you have. We say eliminate the unknowns; opt out of sharing until you have a reason to opt in. You should also know if you use an app, there’s a chance your friends could find see that. So keep that in mind every time you try out a new app.

BONUS TIP: Tell Facebook not to use your  image or name in ads.
How to do it:
A. Go to Account> Account Settings>
B. On the left-hand column, click “Facebook Ads”.
C. Click “Edit third party ad settings”.
D. Next to “If we allow this in the future, show my information to” select “No one.”
E. Click Save Changes.
F. Click “Facebook Ads” again and click on “Edit social ads setting”.
G. Next to “Pair my social actions with ads for” select “No one.”

Now check your work. See how other people see your profile.
How to do this:
A. Go to Profile.
B. In the upper right corner, click on View As…
C. View how specific friends or the “public” sees you.

A sign posted on a wall in Facebook headquarters says: “Move fast and break stuff.”

Facebook’s transition into secure/https browsing, is a good example of how Facebook improves privacy and security in a steady, if occasionally buggy, way.  As you explore these new features, you may notice, for instance, that Facebook still may use the word “Everyone” in one or two places, though they announced that they’re transitioning to the word “Public.” But the changes here are for the better.

These updates are, of course, not enough for some critics. As usual, you should expect some unforeseen consequences, as there nearly always are when 750 million active users have to reexamine how they use the largest social network ever created.

Your security depends on you and your friends knowing how Facebook works. Now that you know how to protect yourself, I hope you share this information with someone you care about.

Follow F-Secure on Facebook for more security and privacy tips.

Cheers,

Jason

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How should we deal with defamation and hate speech on the net? – Poll

Everybody probably agree that the net has developed a discussion culture very different from what we are used to in real life. The used adjectives vary form inspiring, free and unrestricted to crazy, sick and shocking. The (apparent) anonymity when discussing on-line leads to more open and frank opinions, which is both good and bad. It becomes especially bad when it turns into libel and hate speech. What do you think about this? Read on and let us know in the poll below. We do have laws to protect us against defamation. But the police still has a very varying ability to deal with crimes on the net. And the global nature of Internet makes investigations harder. Most cases are international, at least here in Europe where we to a large extent rely on US-based services. This is in the headlines right now here in Finland because of a recent case. The original coverage is in Finnish so I will give you a short summary in English. A journalist named Sari Helin blogged about equal rights for sexual minorities, and how children are very natural and doesn’t react anyway if a friend has two mothers, for example. This is a sensitive topic and, hardly surprising, she got a lot of negative feedback. Part of the feedback was clear defamation. Calling her a whore, among other nasty things. She considered it for a while and finally decided to report the case to the police, mainly because of Facebook comments. This is where the really interesting part begins. Recently the prosecutor released the decision about the case. They simply decided to drop it and not even try to investigate. The reason? Facebook is in US and it would be too much work contacting the authorities over there for this rather small crime. A separately interviewed police officer also stated that many of the requests that are sent abroad remain unanswered, probably for the same reason. This reflects the situation in Finland, but I guess there are a lot of other countries where the same could have happened. Is this OK? The resourcing argument is understandable. The authorities have plenty of more severe crimes to deal with. But accepting this means that law and reality drift even further apart. Something is illegal but everybody knows you will get away with the crime. That’s not good. Should we increase resourcing and work hard to make international investigations smoother? That’s really the only way to make the current laws enforceable. The other possible path is to alter our mindset about Internet discussions. If I write something pro-gay on the net, I know there’s a lot of people who dislike it and think bad things about me. Does it really change anything if some of these people write down their thoughts and comment on my writings? No, not really. But most people still feel insulted in cases like this. I think we slowly are getting used to the different discussion climate on the net. We realize that some kinds of writing will get negative feedback. We are prepared for that and can ignore libel without factual content. We value feedback from reputable persons, and anonymous submissions naturally have less significance. Pure emotional venting without factual content can just be ignored and is more shameful for the writer than for the object. Well, we are still far from that mindset, even if we are moving towards it. But which way should we go? Should we work hard to enforce the current law and prosecute anonymous defamers? Or should we adopt our mindset to the new discussion culture? The world is never black & white and there will naturally be development on both these fronts. But in which direction would you steer the development if you could decide? Now you have to pick the one you think is more important.   [polldaddy poll=8293148]   Looking forward to see what you think. The poll will be open for a while and is closed when we have enough data.   Safe surfing, Micke  

Sep 8, 2014
BY Micke
Connecting people

Why is social media called antisocial?

You have all seen the pictures circulating on the net. A bunch of people all tapping at their smartphones and paying no attention to the world around them. With the title: ANTISOCIAL. And you have probably also seen this is real life. Sometimes a friend just seems to be more interested in the phone than in you. And maybe it has been the other way around sometime? ;) Most of these people are probably using social media. I do agree that it is rude to ignore persons who are physically present and pay more attention to the phone. Especially if you are alone with someone. And yes, that behavior seems antisocial from other’s point of view. But the funny thing is really that social media and our mobile devices form the most social system invented so far. Think about it. You can be in contact with people everywhere in the world. You can send and receive messages instantly and follow what others do right now. You can share your own feelings spontaneously. You can have a pure peer-to-peer exchange of thoughts not curated by any outsiders. You can select to communicate with a single person or a larger group. You are not limited to written text, you can use pictures and video as well. The real point here is that those “antisocial” types aren’t just tapping their phones, they are communicating with real people. Our traditional definition for the word social was formed before we had Internet. People associate it with personal face-to-face contact and are slow to update their mindsets. Or to be precise, we already have a younger generation who have grown up with the net and social media services. Their definition is up to date, but many of us older persons still see the net as less social or not social at all. Let’s all agree to never call someone who is concentrating on the phone antisocial. But the word rude may be justified. Let’s also agree to not be rude against others by ignoring them in favor of the phone. It’s of course OK to check the phone now and then at the party, but always prioritize people who are present and want to talk to you. And why not take it one step further? Turn off the phone and try to be without it for a couple of hours. Can you do it? Next time you go out for dinner with someone is a good time for that experiment. You may be less social on the net for a while, but your company will see you as much more social.   Safe surfing, Micke   PS. If you must be able to take urgent calls and can’t turn off the phone, at least turn off the data connection. That will mute the social media apps.  

Aug 21, 2014
BY Micke
alice

1,2 billion passwords stolen, but does it affect me?

You have heard the news. Russian hackers have managed to collect a pile of no less than 1,2 billion stolen user IDs and passwords from approximately 420 000 different sites. That’s a lot of passwords and your own could very well be among them. But what’s really going on here? Why is this a risk for me and what should I do? Read on, let’s try to open this up a bit. First of all. There are intrusions in web systems every day and passwords get stolen. Stolen passwords are traded on the underground market and misused for many different purposes. This is nothing new. The real news here is just the size of the issue. The Russian hacker gang has used powerful scripts to harvest the Internet for vulnerable systems and automatically hacked them, ending up with this exceptionally large number of stolen passwords. But it is still good that people write and talk about this, it’s an excellent reminder of why your personal passwords habits are important. Let’s first walk you through how it can go wrong for an ordinary Internet user. Let’s call her Alice. Alice signs up for a mail account at Google. She’s lucky, alice@gmail.com is free. She’s aware of the basic requirements for good passwords and selects one with upper- and lowercase letters, digits and some special characters. Alice is quite active on the net and uses Facebook as well as many smaller sites and discussion forums. Many of them accepts alice@gmail.com as the user ID. And it’s very logical to also use the same password, it sort of belongs together with that mail address and who wants to remember many passwords? Now the evil hackers enter the scene and starts scanning the net for weak systems. Gmail is protected properly and withstands the attacks. But many smaller organizations have sites maintained on a hobby basis, and lack the skills and resources to really harden the site. One of these sites belongs to a football club where Alice is active. The hackers get access to this site’s user database and downloads it all. Now they know the password for alice@gmail.com on that site. Big deal, you might think. The hackers know what games Alice will play in, no real harm done. But wait, that’s not all. It’s obvious that alice@gmail.com is a Gmail user, so the hackers try her password on gmail.com. Bingo. They have her email, as well as all other data she keeps on the Google sites. They also scan through a large number of other popular internet sites, including Facebook. Bingo again. Now the hackers have Alice’s Facebook account and probably a couple of other sites too. Now the hackers starts to use their catch. They can harvest Alice’s accounts for information, mail conversations, other’s contact info and e-mails, documents, credit card numbers, you name it. They can also use her accounts and identity to send spam or do imposter scams, just to list some examples. So what’s the moral of the story? Alice used a good password but it didn’t protect her in this case. Her error was to reuse the password on many sites. The big sites usually have at least a decent level of security. But if you use the same password on many sites, its level of protection is the same as the weakest site where it has been used. That’s why reusing your main mail password, especially on small shady sites, is a huge no-no. But it is really inconvenient to use multiple strong passwords, you might be thinking right now. Well, that’s not really the case. You can have multiple passwords if you are systematic and use the right tools. Make up a system where there is a constant part in every password. This part should be strong and contain upper- and lowercase characters, digits and special characters. Then add a shorter variable part for every site. This will keep the passwords different and still be fairly easy to remember. Still worried about your memory? Don’t worry, we have a handy tool for you. The password manager F-Secure Key. But what about the initial question? Does this attack by the Russian hackers affect me? What should I do? We don’t know who’s affected as we don’t know (at the time of writing) which sites have been affected. But the number of stolen passwords is big so there is a real risk that you are among them. Anyway, if you recognize yourself in the story about Alice, then it is a good idea to start changing your passwords right away. You might not be among the victims of these Russian hackers, but you will for sure be a victim sooner or later. Secure your digital identities before it happens! If you on the other hand already have a good system with different passwords on all your sites, then there’s no reason to panic. It’s probably not worth the effort to start changing them all before we know which systems were affected. But if the list of these 420 000 sites becomes public, and you are a user of any of these sites, then it’s important to change your password on that site.   Safe surfing, Micke  

Aug 7, 2014
BY Micke