Tag Archives: Security

Social networks, spam, security = a 101 introduction

18 May

It’s been a while since I have updated my blog with interesting content and it takes on a new twist as I have now more time to devote to publish fresh ideas and thoughts on subjects that … if not interest me, irritate me.

So the theme of the day is : How to avoid spam and illegitimate applications in your favourite social network hub. I’ll keep it brief and simple as the social network who is the guilty party….. is the one I use the most : Facebook. Let’s start with a simple “mise en situation” (en français dans le texte – see translation here).

Southwest Airlines scam on Facebook (Click on image for source)

This is an example from a Mashable post I posted weeks ago, maybe this specific situation has never occured to you but it certainly did for the potential users who clicked on the link expecting free airline tickets. So first tip : Be wary of shortened links on your wall, or your comments, that a): content is irrelevant to your discussion or b): that seem to good to be true.

In this specific situation, either delete the suspicious link AND (this is important) alert the author that he/she maybe unwillingly sending scam links to their friend lists.

Second case :

Facebook "dislike button" scam (Click on image for source)

If you are a daily user of Facebook, you have probably seen this one go around in the last few weeks. My recommandation for this type of spam is to : avoid clicking on links accompanied by expletives like “!” or “OMG!”, this is clearly not the tone that any brand would use to promote the use of a new feature.  And, as mentionned before, delete the post and warn the author of it that they may be spreading links to false content.

If  you have not been shipped to a neighbouring planet in the last month, you probably know what happened to the dearly (erm) beloved favourite terrorist of the entire world, namely Bin Laden and his death at the hands of U.S. Navy Seals. Without trying the fuel the controversy even more, you have probably seen this post crowding your friend’s wall or maybe even your own feed :

Bin Laden video scam (Click on image for source)

Without even commenting on the desire from people to watch a gruesome video about somebody getting killed… People, think with your heads and not with your primary impulses. Again a): posts or videos accompanied by expletives are a no-no. B): do a little bit of research (yes, even in Google it works) to see if the content you are provided with is legitimate or not.

Now we get to the juicy part of this post: Facebook applications. Typically, there exists probably thousands of developped apps for the social network, some are legit, some are copies and some are just there to make your life miserable. Think for a second of the (virtual) embarassement of waking up one morning, grabbing your coffee and hoping to Facebook to see news of your world… only to find out that you polluted your friend’s pages with links to an app you didn’t authorize or recognize. Here a a few simple steps to resolve this situation :

a): Report the page or offensive comment by clicking on “Report this link” (or the little “x” on the right of posts)

Report Link on Facebook

b): Check your privacy settings and click, at the bottom, on “Apps and Websites”. This will give you a list of the applications you authorized. From there you can delete any offensive app or review their settings. Beware that most apps will ask you for permission to write on your wall. This is HOW the infamous links and scams get across to your friend’s page. So you might want to review what applications are installed, delete unused ones and customise the content you want sent accross.

Finally, on your quest to get rid of scam, be careful not to go overboard and endorse seemingly legitimate applications, bookmarklets, browser extensions, that claim to get rid of all that clutter. For example, I came across this tool today when researching links for this post : FBPurity (you can click, it’s safe). FBPurity claims to be an “browser extension / script that removes the stupid quiz messages & other silly application spam from your facebook homepage”Now that sounds just purty to me, even with the CNET and Washington Post recommandations but I’d still be careful of “homemade” scripts allowed to interfere with a dedicated website, you might just filter out content that you still want to see (hey, everybody has the right to like those facebook quizzes anyway).

Let’s review all this before closing the subject :

  1. Review your privacy settings and installed apps in your Facebook accounts;
  2. Research any links to external websites with the keywords used;
  3. Warn people if they are sending scam or fake links (they probably don’t even know they did it);
  4. If you are the culprit, still WARN your contacts, spread the word, kill it before it goes around more;
  5. If you’re into more geeky tips, check out the bottom of this post for more useful sources for security in social networks.

Further information :

Mashable – Category “Facebook”

The Naked Security  blog from Sophos

The Facebook Help Centre

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