Social Media Banned, Creates Identity Theft Risk

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

The Marines recently banned soldiers
from using social media sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.
This is for two reasons. First, because they fear that these sites’
lack of security may allow malware to infiltrate government computers.
And second, they’re concerned about the potential for leaked military
data. Military personnel are often prohibited from informing friends
and family of their locations or missions, regardless of whether
they’re communicating with handwritten letters, email, or the
telephone. These measures are necessary to prevent leaks that would
impede the soldiers’ missions and safety.

It’s no surprise that they have now banned social media.  I recently reported on Sir John Sawers, the incoming head of MI6, the British equivalent of the CIA. His wife posted sensitive personal information to her Facebook page,
including the address of the couple’s London apartment and the
locations of their children and Sir John’s parents. Military personnel
should held to a higher standard. We are talking about national
security here, and we can’t risk leaks that could jeopardize lives.

Anyone who thinks this is absurd need only look at sporting events
for confirmation of why this type of communication should be banned.
Every time I watch a baseball or football game, when I see the coaches
talking to players, or the pitcher talking to the catcher, they cover
their mouths with a hand, glove or paperwork. Why? Because there are
thousands of “lip readers” watching the event who are happy to report
on what was just said in order to give the opposing team an advantage.
You’d think after all these years covering their mouths, lip readers
would just give up. But no, that’s not the case at all. There’s always
someone watching, waiting, hoping for someone to screw up so they can
give the other team an advantage.

Today, social media gives scammers an advantage. Somebody is always
watching and waiting for an opportunity. Social media is built on
trusting relationships. Scammers can exploit that trust to gather
information that could be used in password attacks. If you ever forget
your password and have to reset it, the answers to several of the
security questions might already be available in your profile. And in
many cases, the default privacy settings leave profiles open to anyone.

Security professionals were able to create a virus called ZombieSmiles,
which gains control of the victim’s browser and allows the hacker to
access supposedly private data through the Facebook API, including
friends, groups, wall postings and applications. Facebook applications
allow a third party to access your data, which opens a Pandora’s box of
possibilities for hackers. So if you send me a Facebook application and
I refuse, it isn’t because I’m being rude, it’s because I think that
the potential risks simply outweigh the benefits. No offense. I just
don’t want my identity stolen.

If you use social media and regularly update your status or profile
with pictures, video, or information about your whereabouts or daily
routines, please keep the following advice in mind:

  1. Before you post anything online, think about what a hacker,
    stalker, employer, or potential employer could do with that data. Could
    an ex, who’s fighting for custody, use the data against you in court?
  2. Don’t give away specifics. Don’t post your address, date of birth,
    kids’ names, pets’ names, phone numbers, or any account numbers or
    financial information of any kind. You really shouldn’t even post
    childrens’ photos online.
  3. Do not tell the world you are going on vacation! Or if you’re just
    going to dinner or the beach and won’t be at your house for several
    hours, why would you let potential burglars know that you’re away?
  4. If you’re a “partier” and like to imbibe, informing the world that
    you just smoked a joint is not only one of the worst things you could
    do for your career, it also makes all your friends guilty by
    association. And don’t announce that you’re hungover, because after the
    age of 23, you ought to know better.
  5. Before posting pictures or videos, consider what a criminal or
    potential employer might see. Could they be used against you in any way?
  6. If you let your kids use social media, you must monitor every aspect of their Internet activities. Pick up McAfee’s Family Protection software and take control of your childrens’ Internet use.
  7. Take advantage of privacy settings and lock down your profile, so that only those who you approve can view everything.
  8. Get a credit freeze.
    Go to ConsumersUnion.org and follow the steps for your particular
    state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In
    most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name.
    This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity
    thief.
  9. Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention.
    Not all forms of identity theft protection can be prevented, but
    identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discusses a Facebook Hack on CNN

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