The post on Facebook or other social media might start with something like this: “It’s fun to learn odd little things about people.”
Sure, it can be fun to learn and share these things, but also dangerous. If you take the bait, you become a victim of social engineering.
From a cybersecurity standpoint, social engineering is the practice of manipulating people into giving up private information. It can take many different forms, such as phishing emails, emails that look like they come from a friend asking from help (but come from a criminal instead), and even phone calls claiming to be from a trusted company such as Microsoft or Intel.
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These “fun” social media questionnaires take advantage of several hard truths about Facebook. Don’t feel bad if you fit into any of these categories – lots of folks do, and it’s easy to get your Facebook privacy practices back on track.
- Many people don’t set their privacy settings on Facebook, so anyone can see their posts.
- Even if you’ve tweaked your privacy settings, if you’re like most people, you’ll accept friend requests from anyone – which is a bad idea.
- Even if you don’t accept friend requests from anyone and everyone, you may be vulnerable to “click bait” – sensational, misleading headlines you’ll see on Facebook that draw attention and lots of clicks, but actually don’t lead to what you think they will. Instead, they’re liable to infect you with malware or steal your Facebook data.
It’s easy to get one of these cute little surveys going on Facebook. Just a few people have to post them to begin with, and they tend to circulate like crazy. Then, criminals use whatever means they can to harvest this information.
Once they have it, there’s a good likelihood that they’ve got your passwords and/or security words for various online accounts, including financial institutions (bank accounts, credit cards, retirement accounts, etc.).
What do these surveys look like?
Here are some examples of questions you might see on these survey postings. And also, those apps that let you know what fruit you are, or what animal you are, or what planet you should live on, and so forth are doing the same thing. You’re providing private information to a shady company or individual for possible nefarious purposes.
- First job
- Favorite footwear
- Favorite color
- Favorite vacation spot
- Favorite vegetable
- Dream job
- Favorite food
- Favorite candy
- Favorite holiday
- Early bird or night owl
- Favorite pet or first pet’s name
- Favorite ice cream
- Your vehicle model
- Favorite restaurant
- Favorite sports team
How can you protect yourself?
- Set your Facebook privacy settings so that only friends can see your posts and pictures.
- Do not accept Facebook friend requests from people you don’t know. Ever.
- Drop friends from Facebook if you’ve accepted their requests in the past and you have no actual knowledge of that person.
- Do not fill out any of the little cute surveys of any kind on Facebook or any social media. This includes both apps and regular posts you see from friends. You’re giving away private information to anyone and everyone and putting your personal cybersecurity in grave danger.
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