How to Protect Yourself From Social Network Status Jacking
You’ve probably seen it happen to at least one of your online friends. You’re reading the latest Facebook status updates or scrolling through your recent wall posts when you see an odd post like, “OMG This GUY Went A Little Too Far With His Revenge On His EX Girlfriend!” Did your friend really post that link?
Another situation might involve an unusually offensive status update from a friend that reveals more than you ever wanted to know. Though people certainly violate the rules of “too much information” (TMI) all the time, especially on Facebook and other social networking sites, in certain cases it can appear quite out of character for a particular friend.
These examples illustrate the phenomenon of “status jacking,” a popular form of online malice that strikes social network users when they least expect it. This article describes two major categories of status jacking and gives you suggestions for how to protect yourself from social network status jacking.
Onsite status jacking: more than just “friendly mischief?”
Onsite, or in-person, status jacking is typically instigated by a friend, colleague, family member or other person with direct access to the victim’s personal computer or social network account. It’s often the result of leaving one’s computer unattended while still logged in to Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. Status jacking of this type is usually considered a prank, a sort of modern version of the classic ten-pizza order to a friend’s or rival’s house. Status jacks of this type range from relatively innocent to outright disturbing. Fortunately, the cure for onsite status jacking is simple and painless:
- Log out while away from the computer. This also goes for any site that contains sensitive personal data (e.g., online banking, shopping and email). Users can take further precaution by unchecking the “Keep me logged in” box on Facebook and similar options on other sites.
- Keep your passwords secret. If anyone else knows them, change them. Choose passwords that will be difficult for others to figure out, using a blend of numbers, upper and lowercase letters and non-alphanumeric characters. Create different passwords for different accounts — and don’t tell anyone what they are.
Remote status jacking: how to stay one step ahead of the hackers
Much trickier, remote status jackers, phishers, hackers and their ilk use a variety of complex scripts to obtain your personal log-in information and turn your accounts into spam factories. A Google search of “hacking Facebook” or “Facebook phishing” reveals thousands of pages, videos and step-by-step instructions that describe how to take over someone’s personal account. Not surprisingly one can also find a number of Facebook fan pages and groups where hackers can boast of their latest status-jacking exploits. You can protect yourself from these types of attacks, but it will take a little work. First, follow all of the aforementioned instructions regarding passwords. Should a hacker discover the password to one of your accounts, they will have access to only one account while the others remain safe.
A September 2010 study by Internet security and antivirus software developer AVG found nearly 20,000 compromised webpages in the top 50 global social networks, more than half of which are on Facebook. The following measures can help you avoid these potential attack pages, secure your online life, and help your internet reputation.
- Be careful where you log in. Using an unfamiliar computer or network with insufficient Internet security can leave you and your personal information vulnerable to third-party discovery. Always choose “public network” if accessing a foreign Wi-Fi network and, if possible, refrain from logging in to accounts that contain your most sensitive data.
- Secure your Facebook privacy and application settings. For maximum security, pick the most stringent options available. If you have any linked accounts (e.g., Google, MySpace, Yahoo!, etc.), remove them; logging in to these automatically logs you in to Facebook. Choose “friends only” under Privacy Settings. Under the Facebook Ads tab and “Ads shown by third parties,” choose “no one” and do the same for “Ads and friends.” Finally, review your Application Settings and remove any unfamiliar or unwanted applications. For the applications you wish to keep, it’s a good idea to review the “App privacy” and “This app can” sections for any potential security breaches. Every so often Facebook and other social networking sites announce updates to their privacy settings. Even if your settings are typically airtight, you should review these announcements, as the updates can occasionally revert your preferences back to default settings. Keep this in mind as you learn how to protect yourself from social network status jacking.
- Don’t confirm friends you don’t know. Simple as that.
- Stay away from pages that make you install applications to view them. A recent Facebook scam invited users to a page with the intriguing message, “99 percent of people can’t watch this video,” only to require the installation of an unfamiliar application that took control of accounts and sent invites to friends.
- If you think a friend’s or your Facebook account has been hacked, go to the Help Center and report the issue. The technical support staff can help resolve the problem.
- Buy a comprehensive antivirus and Internet security suite. Though no program can protect you from every malicious website or virus, they certainly do help. Both McAfee and Norton offer complete Internet security suites that protect computers and email accounts from spyware, viruses and trojan worms. Several decent, free spyware- and virus-removal programs are available, but remember: You get what you pay (or don’t pay) for.
So, know how to protect yourself from social network status jacking, depending on what kind of Internet security you have on your computer.