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

More posts from this topic

Safer Internet Day

What are your kids doing for Safer Internet Day?

Today is Safer Internet Day – a day to talk about what kind of place the Internet is becoming for kids, and what people can do to make it a safe place for kids and teens to enjoy. We talk a lot about various online threats on this blog. After all, we’re a cyber security company, and it’s our job to secure devices and networks to keep people protected from more than just malware. But protecting kids and protecting adults are different ballparks. Kids have different needs, and as F-Secure Researcher Mikael Albrecht has pointed out, this isn’t always recognized by software developers or device manufacturers. So how does this actually impact kids? Well, it means parents can’t count on the devices and services kids use to be completely age appropriate. Or completely safe. Social media is a perfect example. Micke has written in the past that social media is basically designed for adults, making any sort of child protection features more of an afterthought than a focus. Things like age restrictions are easy for kids to work around. So it’s not difficult for kids to hop on Facebook or Twitter and start social networking, just like their parents or older siblings. But these services aren't designed for kids to connect with adults. So where does that leave parents? Parental controls are great tools that parents can use to monitor, and to a certain extent, limit what kids can do online. But they’re not perfect. Particularly considering the popularity of mobile devices amongst kids. Regulating content on desktop browsers and mobile apps are two different things, and while there are a lot of benefits to using mobile apps instead of web browsers, it does make using special software to regulate content much more difficult. The answer to challenges like these is the less technical approach – talking to kids. There’s some great tips for parents on F-Secure’s Digital Parenting web page, with talking points, guidelines, and potential risks that parents should learn more about. That might seem like a bit of a challenge to parents. F-Secure’s Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen has pointed out that today’s kids have never experienced a world without the Internet. It’s as common as electricity for them. But the nice thing about this approach is that parents can do this just by spending time with kids and learning about the things they like to do online. So if you don’t know what your kids are up to this Safer Internet Day, why not enjoy the day with your kids (or niece/nephew, or even a kid you might be babysitting) by talking over what they like to do online, and how they can enjoy doing it safely.

February 9, 2016
BY 
parent and child

We need more than just age limits to protect our children in social media

The European Union is preparing a new data protection package. It is making headlines because there are plans to raise the age limit for digital consent from 13 to 16 years. This has sometimes been describes as the age limit for joining social media. To be precise, member states could choose their age limit within this range. Younger kids would need parental consent for creating an account in social media and similar networks. We can probably agree that minors’ use of the internet can be problematic. But is an age limit really the right way to go? It’s easy to think of potential problems when children and teenagers start using social media. The platforms are powerful communication tools, for good and bad. Cyberbullying. Grooming. Inappropriate content. Unwanted marketing. Getting addicted. Stealing time and attention from homework or other hobbies. And perhaps most important. Social media often becomes a sphere of freedom, a world totally insulated from the parents and their silly rules. In social media you can choose your contacts. There’s no function that enables parents to check what the kids are doing, unless they accept their parents as friends. And the parents are often on totally different services. Facebook is quickly becoming the boring place where mom and granny hangs out. Youngsters tend to be on Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Periscope or whatnot instead. But is restricting their access to social media the right thing to do? What do we achieve by requiring parental consent before they sign up? This would mean that parents, in theory, have a chance to prevent their children from being on social media. And that’s good, right? Well, this is a flawed logic in several ways. First, it’s easy to lie about your age. Social media in generic has very poor authentication mechanisms for people signing up. They are not verifying your true identity, and can’t verify your age either. Kids learn very quickly that signing up just requires some simple math. Subtract 16, or whatever, from the current year when asked for year of birth. The other problem is that parental consent requirements don’t give parents a real choice. Electronic communication is becoming a cornerstone in our way to interact with other people. It can’t be stressed enough how important it is for our children to learn the rules and skills of this new world. Preventing kids from participating in the community where all their friends are could isolate them, and potentially cause more harm than the dark side of social media. What we need isn’t age limits and parental consent. It’s better control of the content our children are dealing with and tools for parents to follow what they are doing. Social media is currently designed for adults and everyone have tools to protect their privacy. But the same tools become a problem when children join, as they also prevent parents from keeping an eye on their offspring. Parental consent becomes significant when the social media platforms start to recognize parent-child relationships. New accounts for children under a specified age could mandatorily be linked to an adult’s account. The adult would have some level of visibility into what the child is doing, but maybe not full visibility. Metadata, like whom the child is communicating with, would be a good start. Remember that children deserve s certain level of privacy too. Parents could of course still neglect their responsibilities, but they would at least have a tool if they want to keep an eye on how their kids are doing online. And then we still have the problem with the lack of age verification. All this is naturally in vain if the kids can sign up as adults. On top of that, children’s social media preferences are very volatile. They do not stay loyally on one service all the time. Having proper parent-child relationships in one service is not enough, it need to be the norm on all services. So we are still very far from a social media world that really takes parents’ and children’s needs into account. Just demanding parental consent when kids are signing up does not really do much good. It’s of course nice to see EU take some baby steps towards a safer net for our children. But this is unfortunately an area where baby steps isn’t enough. We need a couple of giant leaps as soon as possible.   Safe surfing, Micke   Image by skyseeker    

December 17, 2015
BY 
12239414_10153218237222006_2269904696488860123_o

A temporary profile picture but permanent app permissions

We are all sad about what’s happened in Paris last Friday. It’s said that the terrorist attacks have changed the world. That is no doubt true, and one aspect of that is how social media becomes more important in situations like this. Facebook has deployed two functions that help people deal with this kind of crisis. The Safety Check feature collects info about people in the area of a disaster, and if they are safe or not. This feature was initially created for natural disasters. Facebook received criticism for using it in Paris but not for the Beirut bombings a day earlier. It turned out that their explanation is quite good. Beirut made them think if the feature should be used for terror attacks as well, and they were ready to change the policy when Paris happened. The other feature lets you use a temporary profile picture with some appropriate overlay, the tricolor in this case. This is a nice and easy way to show sympathy. And it became popular very quickly, at least among my friends. The downside is however that it seemed so popular that those without a tricolor were sticking out. Some people started asking them why they aren’t supporting the victims in Paris? The whole thing has lost part of its meaning when it goes that far. We can’t know anymore who genuinely supports France and who changed the picture because of the social pressure. I changed my picture too. And it was interesting to see how the feature was implemented. The Facebook app for iOS 9 launched a wizard that let me make a picture with the tricolor overlay. Either by snapping a new selfie or using one of my previous profile pictures. I guess the latter is what most people want to do. But Facebook’s wizard requires permissions to use the camera and refuses to start until the user has given that permission. Even if you just want to modify an existing picture. Even more spooky. The wizard also asked for permission to use the microphone when I first run it. That is, needless to say, totally unnecessary when creating a profile picture. And Facebook has been accused of misusing audio data. It’s doubtful if they really do, but the only sure thing is that they don’t if you deny Facebook microphone access. But that was probably a temporary glitch, I was not able to reproduce the mic request when resetting everything and running the wizard again. Your new profile picture may be temporary, but any rights you grant the Facebook app are permanent. I’m not saying that this is a sinister plot to get more data about you, it may be just sloppy programming. But it is anyway an excellent reminder about how important the app permissions are. We should learn to become more critical when granting, or denying, rights like this. This is the case for any app, but especially Facebook as its whole business model is based on scooping up data about us users. Time for an app permission check. On your iOS device, go to Settings and Privacy. Here you can see the categories of info that an app can request. Go through them and think critically about if a certain app really needs its permissions to provide value to you. Check Facebook's camera and microphone permissions if you have used the temporary profile picture feature. And one last thing. Make it a habit to check the privacy settings now and then.   [caption id="attachment_8637" align="aligncenter" width="169"] This is how far you get unless you agree to grant Facebook camera access.[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_8638" align="aligncenter" width="169"] The Settings, Privacy page. Under each category you find the apps that have requested access, and can select if the request is granted or denied.[/caption]     Safe surfing, Micke   PS. The temporary profile picture function is BTW simpler in Facebook's web interface. You just see your current profile picture with the overlay. You can pan and zoom before saving. I like that approach much more.   Photo by Markus Nikander and iPhone screen captures    

November 16, 2015
BY