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Once you go hack, you’ll never go back: Facebook scheme wreaking havoc on digital reputation

Facebook identity thefts are nothing new. The social media site has been the vehicle for all sorts of fake links and bots in years past. But a new trick that could threaten your digital reputation is proving particularly insidious. 

If you get a message to “Experience Facebook Black” sometime soon, you’d be advised to turn it down, unless you’re OK with your digital reputation being hijacked. This latest hack could spread malicious software without you or your Facebook friends even knowing until it’s too late.

The scam allegedly works by offering users the chance to change the color of the Facebook background to black – and then asks for users to respond to a series of questions by giving out information. Of course, the promised color conversion is a lie: play into the hands of this fraud and you’ll just wind up as a means of spreading it further, with your information used to make a dummy page to trick your connections.

It appears to be yet another example of an attack that exploits Javascript, and it has proven pervasive enough to get attention from Google, seeing as its browser Chrome can also be affected.

Social media exposure is a larger problem that demands the focus of big companies and anti-spyware professionals. But much of the prevention boils down to basic user habits. Specifically: don’t trust suspicious links, don’t click on something you don’t trust, and don’t sign up for apps that direct you to an outside source. Your information can make other people money, and if you’ve put it on the web, then it’s ripe for the taking. Making use of an online reputation consultant can help companies learn how to safeguard their personal data – before someone else paints it black.

John Sileo is an online reputation consultant and keynote speaker on identity, privacy and digital reputation protection. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent media appearances on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.

Look before you 'like': The unseen perils of being friendly on Facebook

Social media seems to be all about spreading the love. If you like something, you show it by clicking the 'like' button, no questions asked. For most people, it stops there – but not for Facebook. 

Everything you do online gets noticed by someone, and even the most minor of digital movements can have repercussions you aren't aware of. A perfect example of this is the "like" feature of Facebook. It seems harmless enough, but a recent study demonstrated that there are unseen depths to it that you might not know about. Every "like" is a new piece of data that can be strung together with the rest of your online information, creating a picture of you that is scarily accurate. 

A USA Today story recently examined a study done by researchers from the University of Cambridge that tallied up the "likes" and used algorithms to predict user behavior. The results were chilling for anyone concerned about social media privacy: by connecting the dots on Facebook, the study was able to correctly guess the race, gender, religion and even the sexual orientation of users in an overwhelming majority of cases. This should serve as a reminder for those who think they have no risk of social media exposure.

Of course, there are those who deliberately use Facebook as a marketing tool to get noticed, promote products, and raise awareness about their profile or brand. But whether you like it or not, every time you browse, you're leaving fingerprints that can be detected and used to make judgments about you that are getting increasingly precise. And depending on who's doing the judging, you could get targeted with unwanted ads – or worse.

It's unrealistic (and perhaps impossible) to close the Pandora's Box that is Facebook completely, now that it has become a part of so many of our lives. It's more practical to figure out ways to work with the monster than against it, and online reputation management can help you figure out the best methods of limiting your individual vulnerability before someone unsavory figures you out.     

John Sileo is a social media expert and keynote speaker on privacy, identity and digital reputation protection. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent media appearances on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.

More information revealed on Facebook hackers

Remember those strikes against Facebook, Apple and Microsoft a few weeks ago? New data has given us a little more info on where these attacks came from.

Even if you think you've locked your private information down, social media exposure is always a risk. We already knew a little bit about the source of the breach that recently compromised Facebook and other major companies. Now we have the name of one of the websites that launched the hack: iPhoneDevSDK.com, a mobile app development site that acted as a "watering hole" for malware. It was only one of many, however, and the source of these attacks is still somewhat murky.

The name of the particular species of malware that infiltrated Macs has also been identified. According to the Security Ledger, it's called Pintsized.A, and it's a Trojan that can disguise itself as an innocuous file while subtly corrupting your device. The attacks were disseminated through the use of a critical security loophole in Java, something that has been a source of criticism for cyber security professionals in the past.

It also appears that the malware only targeted specific users linked from other designated sites, with businesses preferred over ordinary citizens. It's unclear exactly how this originated and whether it's a large coordinated effort, a group of criminals, or some other unsavory source. All the same, the level of sophistication is astounding, and we can have no doubts that other threats are on the horizon if we don't take proper measures now.               

Social media privacy is vital to all users, whether it's in a business setting or on your cell phone. Not even the biggest providers on the planet can foresee when the next big leak will be, or how it will show itself. Good prevention habits can help safeguard your social media privacy, and keep you ready for different kinds of potential disasters that may arise.  

John Sileo is a social media privacy expert and keynote speaker on cyber security, identity theft and reputation protection. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent media appearances on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.

Facebook Exposed (By Humans) to Vicious Strain of Malware

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Viruses are the biological weapons of the internet: once someone gets infected, it's only a matter of time before the contagion starts to spread. Even a social media giant like Facebook isn't immune to the kinds of digital "superbugs" that cause data security breaches.

You would think that corporate titans – with their advanced defenses – would be most immune to the effects of malware,  but the reality is that the bigger the service provider, the more vulnerable it can be to hackers and cybercriminals. Recently, we saw Twitter get hit with a massive hack that targeted the data of a quarter-million people.  Now, Facebook has been victimized by a vicious strain of software. 

Last Friday, Facebook security posted a statement on its blog detailing what it called a "sophisticated attack" on its system that occurred in January.  

"This attack occurred when a handful of employees visited a mobile developer website that was compromised," the post said. "The compromised website hosted an exploit which then allowed malware to be installed on these employee laptops."

The key phrase here is "handful of employees," which reminds us that the solution to the problem isn't only technological, but human in scope.

Disturbingly, all of this happened even though the users accessing this website had complete anti-virus protection. The malware was so advanced, it was able to hijack the Java protocols normally set to fight against situations like this. I'm curious to know whether or not the malware would have been avoided had the handful of employees been trained on sophisticated social engineering and spear-phishing schemes.

Facebook has stressed that no user data appears to have been compromised, and that the malware responsible was treated as of this month. While this is good news, it doesn't hide the fact that this could happen to anyone, regardless of what you think your level of immunity is. In the meantime, Facebook's troubles are a reminder that hackers can play tug of war with your online reputation at anytime, and you might not know who won until it's too late.

Social media exposure is always there, hovering just out of sight. To protect yourself, consult a data security expert to ensure your people are as updated on scams as your anti-virus protection is. Otherwise, you might wake up one morning with your information available to others – a common symptom of those affected by a data breach.

John Sileo is a data security expert and keynote speaker on social media privacy and risk management. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent work on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.

Study: People remember your Facebook status updates more than books

Get this. A new study says that your Facebook status updates are more memorable to people today than carefully crafted lines from a book. If that’s not proof that social media exposure has real impact and an insanely long shelf-life, I don’t know what is.

A team of psychologists from the University of California published their research in the academic journal “Memory and Cognition.” They collected hundreds of Facebook posts from undergraduate research assistants and the same number of random phrases from recently published books sold on Amazon.

They made sure that the specific context was taken out so that the status updates and book excerpts stood completely on their own. Study participants were asked to memorize them. As it turns out, those Facebook statuses we throw up all willy-nilly stick with a person 1.5 times more than the words written by published authors.

The conclusion reached in the study was that because social media status updates are more “unfiltered” and represent “effortless chatter,” they are seen more like everyday conversations and thus are easier to remember. The study was repeated with news headlines. This time, people remembered the comments social media users made about the headlines more than the headlines themselves.

When an author writes a book, it goes through countless revisions and is looked over meticulously by editors. When we post something online, the only filter we have is the one between our brains and mouths – or keyboards – in that split second before we hit “Send.” So, not only are we more at risk of regretting what we type, but it’s also likely to be remembered for a long time and have implications for our social media reputation.

The next time employees post a personal status update or they post an official update on behalf of your business, don’t you want to know what’s being put out there is actually in your best interests? Talking to an online reputation consultant is a good first step toward avoiding embarrassing and potentially damaging situations.

John Sileo is an online privacy expert and keynote speaker on social media privacy, identity theft and fraud. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent work on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.

 

CES panel highlights social media privacy and the dangers of ignoring the issue

"We live in public."

This was a statement made by a 22-year-old individual participating in a panel discussion about Generation Y and online privacy at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) currently taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Slamming your head in a car door hurts, so we don't do it. Exposing dangerous amounts of our private information also hurts, but because we don't feel the pain instantaneously, we tend to ignore it all together. Our risk attention span is about 30 seconds, or about as long as it takes to read a 140-character tweet.

The CES panel was composed of six young adults between the ages of 18 and 28. Each individual made some very important points about social media exposure and their use of the Web.

"I don't believe that if I were to turn [my social networks] off that people wouldn't be able to get my info. It's already out there," said Tess, one of the Gen Y-ers.

Yes! That is exactly right. Squeezing your eyes shut as a child didn't make the monsters go away because they were never there in the first place. Closing your eyes as an adult doesn't undo countless sharing mistakes made over a matter of years on the Web, because those are very much in the real world.

Another participant said that she uses Facebook's security setting that allows her to approve any photo, status update or check-in that she is tagged in, because she correctly surmised that such information could send employers and colleagues the wrong message about her. This is a critical part of online reputation management that far too few people utilize.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that, as a CNET recap of the panel points out, the entire group agreed that Facebook's privacy controls are a pain to locate and manage. The very unfortunate byproduct of this fact is that millions of people just shrug their shoulders and assume that they can ignore the issue because no one would want to target them for identity theft or do anything that might hurt their reputation.

Wrong! And that's a mistake that can cost you dearly.

John Sileo is an online privacy expert and keynote speaker on social media privacy, identity theft and fraud. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent work on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.

Identity Theft & Fraud Keynote Speaker John Sileo

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America’s top Privacy & Identity Theft Speaker John Sileo has appeared on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper, Fox & in front of audiences including the Department of Defense, Pfizer, Homeland Security and hundreds of corporations and associations of all sizes. His high-content, humorous, audience-interactive style delivers all of the expertise with lots of entertainment. Come ready to laugh and learn about this mission-critical, bottom-line enhancing topic.

John Sileo is an award-winning author and keynote speaker on the dark art of deception (identity theft, fraud training, data privacy, social media manipulation) and its polar opposite, the powerful use of trust, to achieve success. He is CEO of The Sileo Group, which advises teams on how to multiply performance by building a culture of deep trust.