Posting personal information is inevitable when it comes to social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter. However, before posting any information believed as safe to post online, and even before creating an account log in or password for the sites, consider the following scenario, and then read on to see how to make social networking profiles safer and account passwords more secure.
The Bronk Facebook Incident
George Samuel Bronk, an otherwise nondescript man without much to do, was able to hijack e-mail and Facebook accounts, while using information obtained from those accounts to blackmail possibly thousands of victims from January to September 2010. Even though Bronk has since been caught, the nine months he was actively stealing information and blackmailing his victims was enough to devastate their lives. Bronk pleaded guilty to seven federal felony charges including child pornography, computer intrusion, and false impersonation that could land him in a federal prison for six years.
Information Was There for the Taking
It all started when Bronk obtained personal information from his victims’ Facebook profiles, information his victims posted openly and willingly, thinking it would not only be fun, but safe as well. Information obtained included favorite animals, colors, songs, siblings and friends’ names, phone numbers, IM addresses and more. However, the most important pieces of information Bronk obtained allowed him access to the victims’ Facebook and email accounts.
Using the personal and “safe’ information found on public profiles available for anyone to see, he was able to do one of two things; he either guessed a password correctly, or he was able to answer the password retrieval secret question correctly, which are the security challenge questions email services ask when a user has lost his or her password.
After gaining control of the victims’ accounts, he searched for sensitive photos, emails and other data. What he found were numerous nude photos for which he used to blackmail the account owners. In some cases, he simply emailed the photos to the victims’ entire contact lists. In both cases, Bronk was able to hijack a confirmed 46 accounts and possibly up to 3,200 more, according to police, who are awaiting the outcome of a survey sent to Bronk’s possible victims. They will use the survey to determine how many women Bronk victimized in total.
How to Stop This from Happening
While most people are aware that online security is necessary, and reigning in the type of personal information they post to the Internet should be controlled, most are not so vigilant when posting information to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Because of the “It can’t happen to me” attitude that many possess, cruel people such as George Samuel Bronk find it extremely simple to victimize them.
While it is unlikely that people will stop posting information on social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter, some easy steps to minimize victimization do exist. They include:
Never use a “favorite” for a password . Even if a person uses a favorite thing as a login or user name, if the password is different from any information already posted online, the chances of someone guessing that password is minimized.
Never use a birthday, place of birth, maiden name, childhood favorites, or similar information. When people “grow up,” they tend to change their social circles and believe that using this information is safe because the people they hang out with now are not the same people with whom they grew up; however, one never knows if a person from their childhood is out to get them, or wants revenge for some childhood prank. This person could surface one day and, knowing the answers to these questions, could easily gain access to an online account to seek revenge.
Furthermore, just like in anything on this planet, for you not to be a victim of scam or fraud online, you should educate yourself and arm yourself with all the necessary information about social networking sites. You can check an anchor that offers great quality and reliable information.
M ake up a random password that is easy to remember . Yes, everyone has heard this before, but hardly anyone does it because they end up writing down the password anyway, thus defeating the purpose of a secure, hard to guess but simple to remember password.
Combat Weak Passwords
One easy way to combat this is by picking seemingly random keys in a particular order and using at least 10 characters. For example, use every second key starting from the bottom row and work to the left and upwards, and then back down and to the right. Using this example, the password might be, “?ky32qdbk[” and would be almost unhackable, unless the person hacking it knew the particular sequence used to pick the password.
Using a sequence such as this one allows for a “random” password with a pattern, so that it is easier to remember and the user does not have to write it down-an act that defeats the purpose of a secure, hard to guess but simple to remember password. Then, after choosing a password, plug it into a trusted password checker, such as that from Microsoft. It will determine whether the password chosen is weak, good or strong.
Being vigilant and closely monitoring personal, but public information and using different information for passwords can drastically reduce the number of accounts victimized by people like George Samuel Bronk. All it takes is vigilance and common sense, and the Internet can become a safer place.