I noticed one day that my friend had cancelled her facebook account after only a month of starting it up. When I questioned her about it I expected the usual, “I don’t want ‘The Man’ selling my personal information!” Or, “I hate seeing all the baby photos everyone from high school keeps posting.” Or one of the many other reasons people detest the social site. What I wasn’t expecting was that her account was continually being hacked and that no matter what she or facebook did it kept happening. It wasn’t just her FB, either. Her email, her twitter and Flickr were also compromised.
There are many sophisticated hacks that someone can pull on a private computer or a corporate infrastructure, but by far the most common, and equally devastating, are the simple password hacks. Fortunately, there are simple ways to safe guard against these. I took her through these 5 steps.
1. Monitor Your Accounts. AKA: Pay attention to your damn kids.
I agreed to sit down at her computer and help her figure this out. The first thing I asked was how many email addresses she had. 3 was her answer, one personal (the funny child), one business (the straight A child) and an old one that she lost the password too a long time ago (the ginger stepchild). I suspected that somehow the hacker gained access to the old account which had a connection to her personal account via a password recall.
When you create any type of social profile online (i.e. email addresses, social network accounts) they’re like children, and if you make them they’re your responsibility. Neglect them and some bad influence will find them and convince them to get into drugs or porn. While actively being on your accounts won’t stop attacks, if you keep an eye on your inbox, sent box & spam box you’ll quickly spot irregularities and be able to take action before your Grandmother gets inundated with emails for “Barely Legal Teens.”
2. Secure your password recall (The call is coming from inside the house!)
We decided the old email was a wash so we reported it to Google and moved on to the personal email. My suspicions were confirmed when we saw this on her computer.
When they broke into her personal addy they took the liberty of changing the password recall address. So no matter how many times she changed her password they would just recall it from that mysterious account. Also, yes she used the same personal email to sign up for ALL HER SOCIAL NETWORKS. We quickly erased the false information and set her password recall by phone number. Now if she ever forgets her password the recall will be sent to her via text message. Which leads me to…
3. Create a secure password and for the love of God don’t make your password PASSWORD.
After securing up the personal email account we did the same for the business email. Then we changed the password for every digital account she had. It’s never a good idea to use the same password for each account and you’ll want to use a combination of symbols (@,#,$,%) and numbers inside the password. Avoid using names of pets, relatives or vacation spots. If the person trolling your account learns even a little bit about you they may be able to guess your password.
4. Download social media apps to your phone.
(See number 1)
5. Secure your phone with a lock key.
For many of us, our phone is the hub to our digital life. It accesses our digital accounts, our emails our contacts and all those NSFW/FYEO photos you’ve drunkenly taken of yourself. It only makes sense to put a pass lock on your phone. Some android phones have swipe codes while iPhones have pin numbers or passwords. A Password lock is more secure than a pin, but if you prefer a pin stay away from 1111, 2222, 0000, etc.
5a. Remote Wipe aka Nuclear Launch Codes.
Most current generation phones have a Track and Wipe app that can be accessed via computer to track the phones GPS and/or remote wipe all personal data from the phone. Find out if your phone has these capabilities and familiarize yourself with the application. If you think your phone was deliberately stolen, drop the bomb like Hiroshima.
After applying these tips to my friend’s digital life she is now safely tweeting and liking pictures of cats with the best of them. Hopefully you are as well.