Beware of Facebook Dangers

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Danger!! Hows that for a blog title that screams fear, uncertainty and doubt!? Fact is Facebook boast 400 million users and is in so many ways seems out of the control of its founder, and is looking dangerous. This is a company that has grown faster than fast and has a (very intelligent) 20 something CEO just out of puberty calling the shots. It seems the amount they (his Board? CIO? ) lets him run at the mouth that privacy is no big deal, shows an immature lack of control over this operation. Any company that wields this much power needs to be checked and balanced.

Their growing pains are publicly played out in numerous lawsuits and visceral rants by every possible pundit (like me) and privacy professional on the block.

Sure when you are that big there will always be someone who wants to take you down. But every week there is a new story about a security breach or a privacy violation. That tells me it’s more than growing pains or jealousy. There are serious management problems there resulting in reputation issues for the company and for the user, security issues.

DANGER, DANGER!

The 3rd party applications in the form of games and quizzes are sharing data that’s not meant to be shared. While the user may agree to the terms of service, they aren’t reading the fine print. Is it really in Facebooks interest to allow this?

Seems like every 2 weeks they change whatever privacy settings there are and the public gets more pissed off with each change. Why doesn’t someone inside this company have a clue what the public wants? What’s more obvious is they don’t care!

Criminals and scammers set up fake profiles of companies and individuals all day every day. These social media identity theft profiles are designed to get people to provide data for free gift cards or other offers that ultimately allow for financial fraud to occur. Is there no way they can more effectively police this?

Recently, the chat feature was made public. For a period of time users chats were available for anyone to see. They had to shut it down to calm the mess. How the heck does that happen? Don’t they have redundancy built in to prevent this?

Ads appearing on Facebook are sanctioned in some way by Facebook and some are malicious. When clicked they can infect your PC. You would think that a private company worth billions would have systems in place to prevent its users from getting hacked via ads placed on their own servers?

So now that I’m done throwing up, protect your identity. Because when it gets hacked on Facebook, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk. (Disclosures)

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing Facebook Hackers on CNN.

Want Privacy? On Facebook? Shut Up!

Identity Theft Expert Robert Siciliano

There seems to be a groundswell of people who are anti-Facebook today.

Google “Facebook” and “Privacy” and 761,000,000, that’s seven hundred and sixty-one million results come up in a quarter second. WHY? BECAUSE THERE IS AN OBVIOUS ISSUE WITH FACEBOOK AND PRIVACY. The major issue here is not that Facebook isn’t private, it’s that some people want it to be private and its not and they can’t have their cake and eat it too. Privacy has always been a hotbed media grabbing issue that sells news too, so the few privacy pundits that there are, get all this attention by pointing the finger.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebooks head dude said “people have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people.Then he went on to say “that social norm is just something that has evolved over time.”

Nick Bilton a New York Times writer interviewed a Facebook employee and shortly after tweetedOff record chat w/ Facebook employee. Me: How does Zuck feel about privacy? Response: [laughter] He doesn’t believe in it.”

So if the head of an organization is telling you straight out, privacy isn’t really a concern, then why expect anything different? If you are about to book a cruise and you are told the captain of the ship likes to drink ALOT and he has a habit of hitting icebergs, would you get on the ship? If you don’t like the way things are done at Facebook either shut up or delete your profile.

I personally have no hard feelings towards Facebook, I also don’t share intimate details of my life and I understand the implications of the service. My angst is towards its users who say and do things that make themselves vulnerable to crime and online reputational disasters. Like Howard Stern’s dad used to say to him “I told you not to be stupid you moron.

And now that politicians are stepping in and making a fuss, Facebook is now the new privacy battle ground. These same politicians won’t do anything or accomplish anything. They just love the attention. And with 400 million people on board, I think privacy is deader than dead, a rotting corpse that just smells bad and we will complain as long as the stink lingers. Openness and transparency along with sharing too much information is the norm. But that doesn’t exclude you from at least understanding the risks, taking some responsibility and being smart about how to use it.

Protect yourself:

Use URL decoding. Before clicking on shortened URLs, find out where they lead by pasting them into a URL lengthening service like TinyURL Decoder or Untiny.

Maintain updated security. Whether hardware or software, anti-virus or critical security patches, make sure you are up to date.

Lock down settings. Most social networks have privacy settings that need to be administered to the highest level. Default settings generally leave your networks wide open for attack.

Register company name and all your officers at every social media site. You can do this manually or by using a very cost effective service called Knowem.com.

Protect your identity.

Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk. (Disclosures)

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing Social Media on Fox Boston.

Privacy Is Dead, Identity Theft Prospers

My information is in lots and lots of different places. I sacrifice a lot of privacy because of the nature of my business. If I wasnt so dependant on eyeballs I’d live much differently. However to participate in society on any level, privacy becomes a dead issue. Accept it. Or live in the jungle in Africa.

A CEO of a major software company declares, “You have zero privacy, get over it.” In response, the FTC states, “Millions of American consumers tell us that privacy is a grave concern to them when they are thinking about shopping online.”

Do you agree? Is privacy dead? Do you share your “status” on Facebook? Twitter? Do you have a MySpace page? A blog? Do you post your family photos on any of the above, or on Flicker?

The statement, “You have zero privacy, get over it,” was made by Scott McNealy, former chief executive officer of Sun Microsystems, in 1999. That was 10 years ago. Before the phrase “social networking” or the word “blog” entered our lexicon.

Here we are in 2009, when that statement is 100 times more true than it was 10 years ago. When you ask people if they are concerned about online privacy, they respond with a big, loud, angry “YES!” Then they hypocritically use their Facebook pages to inform the world that they are about to go on vacation. Which means that the lights are off and nobody’s home.

It isn’t just web users voluntarily giving up their privacy, it’s also corporations and government agencies gathering data as a form of intelligence. This data might be used to sell you something or it could be used to protect us in the form of Homeland Security.

Our personal information can be bought and sold. “Information brokers” sell our data to anyone with a credit card. One of the largest publicly traded information brokers in the world is a company called ChoicePoint. Last time I checked, they had 19 billion records on file. And one of their biggest customers is the US government.

So even if you don’t update your Facebook status to tell the world you just made a tuna sandwich, chances are, your phone number, your most recent address, or even your anonymous chat handle can be found on Zabasearch.com or iSearch.com. If you’ve ever committed a felony, your data may be on CriminalSearches.com Heck, just Google yourself.

At least head to Facebook and lock down your privacy settings. You get to them from the Settings –> Privacy Settings menu.

If you are reading this, you are participating in society. The price you pay is sacraficing your personal identifying information in order to get an Internet connection, credit, a car, medical attention, to go to school or buy a pair of shoes. While many citizens scream against Big Brother and corporate America abusing their trust, many will also give up all their privacy for ten% off a new pair of shoes.

All this makes it very easy for criminal hackers to commit identity theft. They use this available data to become you. Since your data is already out there, you’d better invest in identity theft protection and make sure your PC is up to date with Internet security software.

For more information, I recommend You Have Zero Privacy – Enjoy It! by Mike Spinny, and Cyberwar’s First Casualty: Your Privacy by Preston Gralla and Why give up Privacy? by Bob Sullivan

Robert Siciliano, identity theft expert, discusses background checks.