Despite Facebook Privacy Revisions, Still Be Careful
Last week, after I wrote my article about Facebook's new alliances and new ways of sharing personal information, Facebook announced that it was revising its privacy options.
The new options were purported to make it easier for users to change their privacy settings. Although in some ways it was a move forward, for the most part, it was simply a bone thrown to those concerned about privacy. Facebook reduced the number of separate pages of privacy options.
There are now eight pages instead of 13. There are also fewer option that need to be checked to make all of your information somewhat private. Previously, there were 50. Now, by my count, there are only 15.
The entire situation, however, is still problematic. It is difficult for the average person to understand what each of the privacy choices mean, and there are still too many to juggle.
If you are on Facebook, however, I highly recommend that you visit the Privacy Settings area to take a good look at what you may be sharing. Just click on "Account" from the top right of the Facebook page, then click on "Privacy Settings." Also, remember that although you have some control over what is posted on Facebook pages, you still can't control the information that Facebook transfers to partners and third-party entities.
So my original recommendation remains: If you don't want the world to know something, don't put it on Facebook or anywhere else on the Internet.
Facebook users should also be aware that viruses can be spread by Facebook's internal mail system just as they can by regular e-mail. For some reason, many Facebook users seem to think that the Facebook e-mail is more secure. This simply is not true.
Since Facebook now has more than 450 million users, it is not surprising that virus writers are targeting Facebook e-mail. In fact, more than 50 percent of the virus-infected computers that I've cleaned in the last few months got them from Facebook e-mail.
It seems that people are trusting Facebook e-mail more than they trust regular e-mail. They seem to trust that because they are in Facebook, an e-mail that purports to be from the Facebook administration, would be trustworthy. People also seem to think because Facebook e-mail comes from Facebook friends, it is reliable. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Recently, e-mail appeared in the Facebook e-mail of thousands of Facebook users telling them that their Facebook accounts had been reset. They were told that they needed to click on the attachment to obtain new login credentials. When they did that, several types of malicious programs were installed on their computers, including a program that steals passwords.
In another scam, a Facebook user is sent an e-mail from a friend with a link that says, "You've got to see this." Click on this link, and your computer is infected. Often, a Facebook user will be a little trigger happy, clicking on the link without first thinking that this could be a scam. Once you click, you can be infected in spite of the fact that you have good antivirus software installed on your computer.
Many of these viruses and malware install a fake antivirus alert that tells you that your computer is infected and urges you to purchase their rogue antivirus program. Sometimes, these fake programs urge you to click on more phony links.
These are typical of the scams that are currently being propagated through e-mail systems everywhere. It's not just happening in Facebook. Because of the massive number of Facebook users, however, its e-mail is more attractive to those who are creating and spreading viruses and malware.
If you are expecting an e-mail with a link, such as a newsletter that you have signed up for, feel free to click on the links in that e-mail. However, if you are not expecting an e-mail with a link, you should be very careful of clicking on these links. If you are using Facebook e-mail, you should be especially skeptical of any links in any e-mail.
If your computer does happen to get infected, you need to take immediate action to get rid of the virus, because any personal information that you have on your computer is vulnerable once your computer is infected. This includes not only financial information, but also personal passwords and private e-mail correspondence.
If you do not possess the tools and the knowledge to get rid of the virus yourself, take your computer to a reputable computer consultant who can remove the viruses and malware.
Facebook and the Internet provide a lot of enjoyment - just remember that you have to be careful out there!
Send your computer-related questions for publication in this colum to Sandy Berger at Computer Living Corp, P.O. Box 5895, Pinehurst NC 28374; or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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