How to Save Face: 6 Tips for Safer Facebooking

1. Know what you’re getting into
Facebook is a business. It exists to take your online activity and turn it into revenue. Facebook will always be free. But there is a cost. You’re paying by being exposed to advertising and allowing limited disclosure of your online activity.

How limited? You could sit down for a while and read Facebook’s Privacy Policy. But you’ll probably need a few hours and some black coffee.

So here’s a short version: basically everything you post, every person you friend, every group you join will be made public to your “friends”, “friends of your friends” or “everyone”—depending on your privacy settings.

To you this may be simple. You assume that everything you’ve posted could be available to the whole world. Others are still learning. People have lost their jobs as a result of things they’ve posted on Facebook. And when this happens, the newly unemployed person will usually claim that s/he thought that the post was private.

So joining a social network is a leap of faith. On a social network, not only do you have to trust the site to follow its privacy policy, but you also have to trust your friends. Will they reveal your secrets? Will they pass on bad information and scams to you?

And, more importantly, you have to trust yourself to share the right things.

On Facebook, you are exposing your private life in ways you may not even realize. 79% of companies review an applicant’s online information (which is completely illegal in Finland but acceptable in most of the world). Your financial future could depend on how well your profile and your photos and friends list represent you. So think before you post—always.

2. Secure your PC
What does 500,000,000 people on one website look like? To cybercriminals, it looks like a gigantic, unsecured goldmine.

Online gangs and scammers are working twenty-four hours a day to exploit the trust we have for our online friends. Updated Internet security is a must before you use Facebook or any social site. In addition, you have to make certain that your PC is updated with the most recent application system software, which can be time-consuming. F-Secure’s free Health Check makes that easy.

3. Use a unique, strong password
‘Password’ is not a good password. Neither is ‘123456’ or your pet’s name or your name any information that is available publicly on your Facebook profile.

Creating a strong, complex password that you can remember is the key to keeping strangers out of your account. Here’s a simple password system we recommend. You should also use different passwords for your all of your various accounts, especially your email accounts, to keep one hack from becoming a total nightmare.

For extra protection, never let browser remember your password, and lock your PC when you step away from it—especially if you’re living with young children and/or parents and/or anyone, really.

4. Filter your friends
Facebook works overtime to connect you with as many people possible. When you first join, the site combs through your email account to suggest as many people as possible. Then as you use the site it will suggest more email contacts. Email someone new and Facebook will suggest that you become friends.

Run out of contacts, you’ll see friends of friends, brands you might like, your ex.

It’s a strange social dynamic. When see the person’s picture, it feels like this person wants to be your friend. But who knows? All you can be sure of is that Facebook wants you to be friends.

So ask yourself this: Does everyone you email need to be your Facebook friend?

Some people have found that their best friends in the real world make lousy Facebook friends. There are a lot of people who can find you who may not like reconnecting with. According to a recent survey, 70% of Facebook users avoided becoming friends with their bosses.

Maybe you want to limit Facebook to your friends and family and leave professional connections to Twitter and LinkedIn. There’s no perfect formula, but it’s important to have some filter, some limit on what you share with whom. How do you say no when someone you don’t want to offend makes a friend request? Facebook makes this easy. You can just ‘ignore’ the request. That’s a nice way to frame it!

Want to stop Facebook from combing through your email contacts? You can remove your contacts by clicking here. But if you’re using a Facebook app on your phone, first you’ll have to disable the Facebook synchronization feature on your phone.

Want to stop Facebook from suggesting you as a friend to others? Go to “Privacy Settings” click on “Settings” for “Basic Directory Information”.  When you get there, set “Search for me on Facebook” to “Friends Only”.

Always remember this: If anyone solicits you directly about money, assume it’s a scam. Ignore and defriend that profile immediately. An easy way to defriend someone is to go to their profile and scroll down the left column until you find “Remove from Friends”.

5. Click carefully
The biggest dangers on Facebook are the links that appear on your wall. With one bad click, you could end up on a site that attempts to serve you malware or scam you using phishing tactics. One, bad ‘like’ and you could end up spamming all of your friends. That’s why you have to remember that links are not your friends.

The most popular Facebook scams involve gift cards and hilarious videos and diet advice. So far most attacks on the site have been more annoying than harmful. But without vigilance, you can be sure that vicious scams and malware are heading your way.

The best antidote to bad links is Internet security with browsing protection. You can double-check any link before you click it by copying it (right-click on it in Windows) and pasting it into F-Secure’s free Browsing Protection.

Prevention is your best cure. Realize the more sensational or strange or generic a link is, the more likely it is to be malicious. Again, links are not your friends. Apply the same caution you’ve learned to use when you’re checking email to checking Facebook. And just because your friend or family linked something, doesn’t mean you have to click on it.

6. Don’t rely on Facebook to protect your privacy
The whole point of Facebook is to “connect and share with the people in your life.” But there’s a point, for nearly everyone, where all the connecting and sharing can be too much—especially as your information becomes increasingly available to people who aren’t necessarily “in your life.”

So whenever you use Facebook, you have to ask yourself two things: Who do I want to see what I’m doing? And how would I feel if the whole world saw this?

There’s no technical tool to stop your friends from sharing your information. But Facebook does offer you the tools to control who sees your activity. That’s why you need to get to know your privacy settings.

Start at “Account”> “Privacy Settings”. Then click on “Settings” for “Basic Directory Information” . This is where you decide who can find you and what they’ll see when they do.

You get to decide.  How easy do you want to make it to find you on Facebook? Which is more important to you: privacy or connection.

If you’re more interested in connection, select “Everyone” for the top three settings “Search for me on Facebook”, “Send me a friend request” and “Send me a message”. Then consider making all the other settings “Friends Only”. This will encourage people to become your friend, and it gives you more power over your information.

Next you can click back to “Privacy Settings” and set how you share on Facebook.

You can go with the preset options or customize each category individually.

Your safest bet is “Friends Only.” You may want to want to open your activity to “Friends of Friends”; however, there is certain information that you should not make available to “Everyone”. This includes your birthday, your email address and IM, your phone number and address, political and religious beliefs and your family and relationships.

Why? All of this information may be public somewhere else, like a phone book, but you’re simply making too much identifiable information public in one easily accessible place. There may not be enough there for true identity theft, but you are giving a stranger enough information to pose as you online convincingly, which could be a problem if some potential employer or date is checking out your online presence.

You may also want to uncheck the box that says “Let friends of people tagged in my photos and posts see them.” This way you won’t unintentionally draw attention to an image one of your friends may not want others to see.

If you’re very interested in your privacy, you should continue and edit your Application and Website Settings.

Here you should do two things. 1) Remove any applications you aren’t using.  2) Click on “Turn off all platform applications”. Then you can select which applications you don’t ever want to show up on your wall ever again. That’s right. You can say goodbye to FarmVille forever, if you want to.

You can also turn off all platform applications, which will keep your friends from automatically sharing your information with the applications they’re using. Not a bad idea.

Next you can click on “Game and application activity”. Click “Customize” and select “Only Me” to keep all of your Game and application activity to yourself, which is a good idea if you’re friends with people (read: co-workers) who may judge how you spend your time.

After that, take a look at “Info accessible through your friends”.  Here you’ll see all the information that is available to the applications your friends decide to use. That’s right, your friends share all this information automatically with the applications they use.

Once you see that screen, you may want to go back to “Turn off all platform applications”. Why not turn it off until you have a good reason to turn it on?

Now we’re at “Instant Personalization”, which is controversial because Facebook opted all of its users into it. Of course, it warned everyone through an update to its Privacy Policy, but you probably didn’t take the time or coffee needed to figure that out.

So what does Instant Personalization do? It shares your information with three Facebook partner sites: Docs, Yelp and Pandora. Could more partners be added? Yes. Could you just opt out of one or two? Yes. Just click on Docs, Yelp or Pandora and then click on “Block Application.”

Again, unless you know you want to share information with these sites, it’s a good idea to opt out for now.

If you made it this far, you will be rewarded. We are now at, perhaps, the most important Facebook privacy setting: “Public Search”.

You probably heard how recently the information of over 100 million Facebook users was made available for download. All of that information was public before a security researcher took it and turned it into one downloadable file. Those 100 million Facebook users probably had enabled public search.

This is where get to decide if the whole world can find your Facebook profile and information. With one click, your profile could become the top result of a Google search for your name. If you want to avoid disclosure of your information to the world, you may want to start by limiting who can search for you. I recommend that you do not click the box to “Enable public search”.

So those are the tools Facebook gives you to protect your information. They’re complex, and that’s probably on purpose. Facebook is not shy about encouraging it’s users to share and share and share. That’s why you have to remember that Facebook (and your friends) can’t share anything you don’t post to the site.

So be careful not to post anything that can be used against you. This includes travel plans and itineraries,  complaints about bosses, co-workers and customers, company secrets, threats… Has anyone actually had a home robbed after posting plans on Facebook? Yes, indeed.

There are a million things you shouldn’t post. And you are the only person who can decide what you SHOULD share with Facebook and the world. So choose wisely.

Bonus tip: Use Facebook’s one true security feature
Facebook’s one true security feature is simple but powerful. Facebook will inform you anytime any new device accesses your account. That means if some PC or smartphone you’ve never used before logs into your account, Facebook will email you.

To turn this feature on, go to “Account Settings”. Then select “Account Security”.

Just click “Yes ” and then “Submit”.

Now, what do you do if you find out that someone beside you accessed your account? Change your password immediately. On the “Account Settings” page find “Password” and click “change”.

OK. That’s all I know about making Facebook safer a place for you and your friends. For ongoing tips you can follow F-Secure on Facebook. Do you have any tips to add?

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Tricks Not Treats: The 5 Scariest Online Threats

The first known use of the term "trick or treat" was found in a November 1927 edition of Blackie, Alberta's Canada Herald: Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun. No real damage was done except to the temper of some who had to hunt for wagon wheels, gates, wagons, barrels, etc., much of which decorated the front street. The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word “trick or treat” to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing. "No real damage" from "youthful tormentors?" Sounds a lot like the early days of hacking. Unfortunately those days are long over. “It’s a business,” F-Secure's Chief Research Officer Mikko Hyppönen told Wired UK. “There’s a whole structure there that’s needed,” F-Secure's "Cyber Gandalf" Andy Patel told ITPRO. “An individual can’t just go in and do this now; it’s not a one man job… these are companies.” The cyber crime "industry" has raked in hundreds of millions and possibly even billions of dollars. And it does it, in general, by counting on people to make mistakes. “People do stupid stuff,” Mikko explained. “You cannot patch people.” The first step to avoiding a threat is knowing it exists. So this Halloween as you search for treats online, look out for these tricks. Ransomware F-Secure Labs has warned about malware that holds your digital files hostage to demand a ransom for most of the last decade. But it's in the last year that the threat has burst into the mainstream and become something you can't go a few weeks without hearing about it on the news. How do you avoid this trick? Keep your system software updated and run security software at all times. Make regular backups of every file that matters on your computer and never click on attachments and links in emails that you weren't expecting. Find My iPhone Scam This scam answers the question, "How can losing your iPhone get any worse?" People who use the "Find My iPhone" app have been targeted by criminals who've gotten ahold of their phones with a scam that allows the crooks to gain access to the device and -- possibly -- the owner's most intimate financial details. How do you avoid this? Check the URL before entering any confidential data. Or as Apple says, "You should never enter your Apple account information on any non-Apple website." Phishing Scams As cyber criminals have gone pro, they've gotten better at using old tactics that we thought had faded away -- like email attachments and phishing scams. Like the trick that gives crooks access to stolen iPhones, a phishing scam just tricks you into entering your private credentials into the wrong site. And it then uses those credentials to hack your email, financial accounts, etc. Checking URLs before entering data is crucial because with the explosion of photo editing software and skills, it's now easier than ever to make a fake site look real. Experts believe that one wrong click to a fake site led the chair of a major presidential campaign to expose his entire inbox to the world. Having someone else leak your password Millions and millions of passwords have been leaked in 2016, some from breaches of data that took place years ago. It might not sound scary that your Yahoo! password from 2005 is now public, except if you are still using that password today on a critical account. This is why you need to use strong, unique password for each important account. Yes, remembering all that is almost impossible. So consider using a tool like F-Secure's KEY to manage your passwords. KEY is free to use on one device. Haunted IoT devices As our homes are getting smarter by connecting almost everything to the internet, they're also getting haunted -- by cyber criminals. A botnet is a network of computers that have been hacked and "enslaved." Security expert Brian Krebs was recently hit by a monster attack on his site that he believes was powered by a botnet powered by "'Internet of Things,” (IoT) devices — routers, IP cameras and digital video recorders (DVRs) that are exposed to the Internet and protected with weak or hard-coded passwords." What can you do? So much of this problem requires manufacturers to improve their security. But you can help by keeping every device updated with the latest software from the manufacturer and always changing your default passwords.  [Image by Daniel Lewis | Flickr]

October 21, 2016
dead end

Should We Stop Thinking of Email As Private?

When he was still working in cyber security for the Finnish government, Erka Koivunen met a NATO diplomat that there was "nothing new" about the era we now live in. Foreign envoys have always lived with the constant awareness that their private communications could be "leaked" for their enemies to exploit. "Anything that was written down could eventually be discovered," Erka, who is now an F-Secure Cyber Security Advisor, told me. "So the most sensitive conversations never took place in writing." Given the massive email leaks that have now hit the worlds of business, with the Sony hacks, and politics, with the leaks of U.S. political figures, is this how we should all start thinking? Does everyone alive in the twenty-first century have to operate like a NATO diplomat? Or a C-level executive who knows any word she types could be subpoenaed? Or the campaign chair of a presidential campaign? The answer, unfortunately, seems to be increasingly clear. "Whatever you write, you may need to defend your position in public," Erka said. Relying on an insecure medium The problems with email begin with the general insecurity of it as a means of communication. It's more like sending a postcard than sending a sealed letter, Erka explains. "As soon as the message goes out of your or your company’s systems, you lose control of it," Erka explained. "This is by far the biggest problem of the good-ole-email. Messages can be eavesdropped, altered, delayed, replayed or dropped altogether without you ever knowing." To actually spy on email as it's being transmitted generally requires legal access to telecommunications infrastructure or extraordinary technical knowhow and resources. Think law enforcement or intelligence agencies. Since these groups have a vested interest in cloaking their activities, they had little incentive to engage in the massive sort of leaking of gigabytes of private data we've seen from Wikileaks. However, we appear to be at the end of the era of "the gentleman's agreement" between countries, as cyber policy expert Mara Tam explained on a recent episode of the Risky.Biz podcast. This agreement went something like: "Gentlemen read each other's email, but they don't leak it to the public." The leaks from former CIA contractor Edward Snowden helped make the public aware of how much information the government potentially could access. But the exposure of a private individual's digital communication to the world presents a stark new reality for anyone who conducts business online. "Personal mailboxes store gigabytes’ worth of conversation history that will be a treasure trove for attackers for multiple reasons," Erka said. "There are sensitive discussions about business strategy, customers, competitors, products. There is also internal gossip, badmouthing and other damaging stuff." Activist Naomi Klein told The Intercept that "this sort of indiscriminate dump is precisely what Snowden was trying to protect us from." And we don't yet have a full sense of the potential ways this mass of data can be used against us. A competitor could use private information to tarnish someone’s reputation and hackers can mine the data to prepare for future cyber intrusions or to gain access to your other accounts through password resets. Letting the public decide what's private Leaks have already cost some executives their jobs and could swing the U.S. presidential election. But in a sense, we're all victims of this new risk to all of our privacy. "Whatever you write in an email you have to consider, are you ready for your boss, your spouse, your business partners to read it?" Erka asked. This new reality leads inevitably to the tragedy of self-censorship. Zeynep Tufekci -- a "techno-sociologist" -- ‏has been doing a running commentary on the Wikileaks revelations and is very disturbed by what she's seeing. "People gossiping in internal conversation is not a scandal—but destroying public/private boundaries will paralyze dissent, not the powerful," she tweeted. Wikileaks is releasing more documents than it could ever sift through in the hopes that the newsworthy information will be discerned by interested researchers around the world. But along with potentially relevant items, intensely private information has been revealed. "For example, a suicide attempt was publicized through Podesta indiscriminate dump (Wikileaks tweeted it out)," she noted. "Who will want to be political?" This makes the loss of email seem dire, but perhaps it speaks to a not just a flaw in the medium's security but the medium itself. "The deeper problem with email is that it has never quite settled on a social mode," The New York Times Farhad Manjoo wrote. "An email can be as formal as a legal letter or as tossed off as drive-by insult. This invites confusion." What can you do? So, should you be like that NATO diplomat content to keep all of your deepest secrets out of writing? Can you expect yourself to remove all snark and potentially offensive thoughts from your emails? Should you assume that your email box is like a box of letters in your attic, vulnerable to anyone who can get access to it? These answers are ultimately up to you and how you use -- or don't use -- email. F-Secure security advisor Sean Sullivan has found that young people he's interviewed are increasingly abandoning email as communication tool. "They only have an account -- typically Gmail -- in order to sign up for stuff," he said. If this continues, email is on its way out, whether it's private or not. For now, lawyers, doctors and other professionals with explicit legal responsibilities, email has a much more defined role that cannot be easily abandoned or circumvented. As far as your work email goes, consult your IT staff for guidance as you may be under legal obligation to preserve your data. But for your personal email, Erka suggests you have to at least be aware of how likely you are to be a target and what you can do to contain any potential damage -- besides using a strong unique password for every email account you have and only entering your account information on the secure webpage of your email provider. If you are involved in international politics, for instance, there's no question. You are a target. Hackers are either after your emails or are trying to get access to powerful people in your contacts. If you're someone with no power, no tumultuous relationships and no interest in politics, you're likely not to be on anyone's radar... yet. The problem is no one knows where you'll be in a few years and our inboxes are big enough to last a lifetime. "When everyone is using cloud-based emails like Gmail, there's no need to save space," Erka said. "That's the whole selling point of those services: Never delete anything." If you see the potential for enough damage, you many want these recent leaks as an inspiration to launch a serious spring cleaning of your personal online inboxes, including email and social media. "You may want to delete the messages you don't need and sort the stuff you do want into folders that you take off the web and can store on a secure backup," Erka suggested. Yes, you will lose the convenience of being able to search your Gmail box through a simple interface, but so will potential hackers. He also recommends sharing documents through sharing platforms and cloud services such as Sharepoint, Salesforce or Dropbox. "These links can require separate authentication upon opening and the sender can control how long it will be valid," Erka said. "If the email gets stolen and leaked years later the chances are the link will be invalid by that time." For quick conversations, Sean suggests Wickr, which offers self-destructing messages through a mobile app or a desktop client with easy encryption, something that just doesn't exist for most email. "For professionals, Wickr has a paid service which will retain messages for a legal requirement, and will then securely delete them post-requirement," he said. Regardless of policy, employers have a vested interest in moving their staff away from an over-reliance on email for more than privacy reasons. "Actual phone calls and face-to-face discussions that get out of your chair are probably more useful than email or chat threats," Sean said. "So rather than swap from one to the other – just learn to better utilize what you work with best." These leaks offer a sobering reminder that email is not secure. But, perhaps, the more important message is that it as a means of communication, it was never very smart. [Image by Alan Levine |Flickr]

October 20, 2016

5 Things You Need to Know About the Threat of Election Hacking

Cyber security is playing an starring role in the drama surrounding the question of who will be the next president of the United States. "The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough," Republican nominee for president Donald Trump said, when asked about securing American secrets from cyber attacks during the first debate. "And maybe it’s hardly do-able." Even the integrity of the election has been put into doubt by the threat of hacking -- which may be exactly the point. The questions about cyber intrusions into the electoral system and the wild speculations those intrusions provoke can be hard to put in perspective. So here are five basic premises to help you assess the situation as this historic election transpires. It would be almost impossible to hack the entire U.S. election. The biggest reason this U.S. presidential election is unhackable is that most of it doesn't depend on computers. More than three out of four Americans will vote on a paper ballot this November 8, Techcrunch's Ben Dickson reports. And the fact that all Americans don't vote in the same manner points to the biggest reason you probably couldn't hack the election. Each state has its own system, with some federal guidance. Nearly every state lacks sufficient funding to fully upgrade their systems, hence the reliance on outdated technology. So while voting machines are definitely vulnerable to hacking, hitting just the right ones in a systematic way that just happens to sway the electoral college vote in favor of one candidate would involve both a massive investment of time and money and an even larger serving of luck. But that doesn't mean an election can't be "hacked." “To ‘hack’ a US presidential election, all you need to do is to obviously tamper with one county’s system, then leak that the tampering occurred,” our security advisor Sean Sullivan told Dickson. “Many people will rush to assume that all of the other typical issues that occur may also be the result of hacking — and thus, you’ll end up delegitimizing all of the results.” A delegitimized election equals a  delegitimized winner. You don't even have to hack an election to hack an election. The hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign chair John Podesta could end up being far more consequential in swaying the election than hacking either voting processes or actual vote counts -- especially if the resulting leaks end up revealing something extraordinarily damaging to the candidate in the documents being dripped out by Wikileaks. “Owning an election is gold; being able to influence it is silver; knowing the outcome in advance is bronze,” F-Secure cyber security advisor Erka a Koivunen explained. It's pretty clear that someone is at least after the silver in this election. Someone has definitely poking around in the U.S. election system. The United States has been clear that it believes that Russia is trying to hack this election. This month U.S. officials have explicitly stated that the Russians are behind the hack of a contractor that works on the electoral system of the key swing state of Florida. Similar hacks were reported by the states of Arizona and Illinois. U.S. intelligence also believes Russia is behind the hack of Podesta's emails and a security firm believes it found evidence that the nation led by President Vladmir Putin was behind the hack of the DNC. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told CNN that the accusation that it was behind the Podesta hack "flattering." When pressed to confirm or deny his nation's involvement, Lavrov said, “No, we did not deny this, they did not prove it." Trump himself questioned whether the hack actually happened in the second debate and if he's concerned about Russian hacking, he doesn't seem to be showing it. At one point he even -- jokingly, he said later -- asked Russia to hack his opponent's missing emails. Election technology needs to improve quickly. It's safe to say that no matter who is hacking the U.S. elections, the U.S. is probably hacking them, too. The richest nation on Earth is just not engaging, as far as most people can tell, in the leaks that have followed the recent U.S. hacks. In this new era of cyber attacks backed by nation-states or "privateers" employed by nation-states the rules of cyber espionage are unclear and the fog is thick. No matter what happens in 2016, digital technology will play ever-increasing role in both campaigns and election, and the U.S. needs to take steps to ensure the integrity of its elections. Sullivan believes that the Department of Homeland Security should go through with its proposal to declare voting system critical infrastructure and then adapt its defenses to catch up with the threats. “Network monitoring is rapidly becoming a requirement,” he told Techcrunch's Dickson. And voting must be made to feel at least as secure as using your credit card to buy a coffee. “Smartcard technologies are available in several European countries for online identity authentication,” Sullivan said. “They aren’t widely used. If a country such as the United States were to get serious about rolling out such tech, it would be a game changer.” All of this focus on the security of election systems means that there are “more people checking stuff.” The question now is who is putting in more resources -- the attackers or the people doing the checking. [Image by Maryland GovPics | Flickr]

October 13, 2016