The Warning Behind Viral Facebook Phenomenons

(WTNH) – Years ago, chain letters in the form of actual letters or emails existed. This phenomenon convinced friends to share messages with a certain amount of recipients, spreading the word about an emotionally-driven story, urban legend or fill out a personal questionnaire motivated by a consequence of “bad luck” if the chain was broken and not forwarded to others.

The concept of chain letters has now evolved into social media. Facebook news feeds have now been flooded with various lists or stories that seemingly “everyone” is doing. These posts are now getting more personal than ever and there’s a larger security threat tied into them. This threat that is known as “social engineering” which Google defines as, “the use of deception to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential or personal information that may be used for fraudulent purposes”

Social media is a great tool to connect to your friends and family and to share news about your everyday life with those you care about. However, information about your daily habits in life can potentially be used by hackers or criminals.

While it may seem fun and innocent, recently, a Facebook challenge encouraging friends to share their list of “10 Concerts” has spotlighted how easy it is to acquire personal information. Participants create a list of 9 concerts they’ve been to and one that they have not been to. Friends are then asked to interact and guess which answer is incorrect.

Many websites which prompt for a user login typically use security questions to verify a user’s identity. One of them is frequently, “Name the first concert you attended”. By sharing your list, it makes it easier for potential hackers to access accounts online that you use for communication or even your finances paired with data about your location, birth date and family information already published on your profile.

The use of social media should be for fun and staying informed, however, it is important to remember to keep some personal information to yourself or think twice about participating in a viral “challenge”. Enjoy using websites and apps like Facebook, but always remember to check your security settings often and update your password regularly to prevent any potential issues from arising.

For more information on how to protect your identity on social networks, see these tips outlined by the National Cyber Security Alliance.

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