Special Report: Facebook Loopholes - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Special Report: Facebook Loopholes

Facebook is no longer just a means to communicate with a close-knit group of friends. It's dominance in people's lives is unmatched.  Facebook has become a clearinghouse for so many things.

We've always kept up with our close friend, but we now, we can keep up with the people we barely know or don't know at all. 

Facebook started with a small group of students and now have over 750 million members.

The changes in Facebook and our use of Facebook opens us to incredible vulnerabilities - especially our online security.

Many of us enjoy visiting Facebook throughout our day; whether we're updating our status, checking a notification, getting the latest breaking news, or looking at a friend's new photo album, we feel connected but these things you enjoy are meant to be enjoyed by just you.

Yet if you access your device over a Wi-Fi network in some public places like a cafe, library, or an airport, you could have unsecure browsing. That means the information you send or receive is not secure; allowing hackers to easily access your information on your Facebook account and your friends' information as well.

Lucas Shaffer with Stand and Stretch says, "They can look at your data anytime. They can look at your pictures, they can look at your secure information - things that you might not want to share with people."

You can go on Facebook and enable secure browsing by clicking on "Account", then click on "Security" to get to the "Secure Browsing" settings. When you check the box, you'll see "https:" instead of "http:" on the browser. 

Have you ever befriended someone you don't know because of a mutual friend in common? That could be dangerous.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia wanted to show how easily Facebook can be infiltrated for malicious purposes by gaining large friend networks.

The researchers created 102 fake users, they put attractive profile pictures and random status updates.

The social bots initially befriended random people, and once a friend request was accepted, these fake users would look at that person's friends, and befriend them as well.

The study found that because of a "shared friend"...Facebook users were 3 times more likely to befriend a random person they have never met--and with more than one "mutual friend"-- the acceptance rate jumped to 80 percent.

These fake bots had privileged access to personally identifiable information for many of those users and their networks of friends.

A report of collected information from Credit Sesame, gathered information from ex-burglars who said they targeted their victims from Facebook. Users post pictures, update statuses and "check in" at locations showing they're not home.

"This is how so many find houses to burglarize and find victims to victimize. Everyone needs to look at their Facebook, look at their social networking sites, how is your social security? " said Criminal Investigator, Ernest Ward.

Many times you'll find bad links saying you've won a free iPad, or a post of vulgar images from a friend. This is because someone with malicious intent has taken over one of your friend's account, and the more friends you have, the more at risk you are.

"Just like you wouldn't open an email from somebody you don't know that says you won tickets to Hawaii, you need to be very clear that if you see something pops up on your Facebook page that you don't trust or have seen before, then allowing it isn't the best idea," said Shaffer. 

Shaffer adds knowing the behaviors of your friends is crucial. If it doesn't seem like something you think they would send or recommend, they probably didn't.   "Then all of the sudden it comes from a trusted source and then you're more inclined to check on it, increasing the viral rate of the code. If it looks like something that you just traditionally don't see coming from that person then you should leave it alone, " warns Shaffer.

You can try to avoid these by:

  • Securely logging out of Facebook
  • Making sure you fully trust and know Facebook users you are allowing to access your Facebook page
  • Use complicated passwords for your Facebook account, no pet names, use letters or symbols
  • Modify your password every 3 months
  • Always log out of Facebook, simply closing the page will not be enough. 

For additional tips on a secure experience on Facebook, click here. Also, if you think you are a security expert, click here to take Facebook Security quiz. 

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