We often think of hackers hunched over a computer, typing out code furiously to hack into the mainframe. But what about hackers who don’t fit that stereotype? With just a little knowledge of human behavior, they can manipulate people into doing just what they want. You sabotage yourself, and you’re not even aware that you’re doing it.
Social engineers are a subgroup of hackers who focus on manipulating behavior. They may use a variety of seemingly innocuous techniques to get access to sensitive information. Here’s a couple of sample scams that you might see on social media.
Maybe you get a Facebook message from a family member that says “I’m traveling in [foreign country] and I lost my wallet! Could you send me some money?” While of course you’ll want to help a family member in need, check first with that person through a call or other means to see if they’re really in trouble. How likely is it that they would be contacting you via Facebook for help?
Or how about you get a message on social media that says “I found a video/picture of you on [popular news website]! Click here to view it.” People naturally are curious about this and want to see the picture or video of themselves. Check the sender to see if they’re someone that you know, and hover over the link to see if it leads to a reputable website.
What about those fun Facebook games that your friends are always sharing? The ones that photoshop your profile picture onto a baby to predict what your kids will look like or give you an ID card with information about your superhero powers? These seem pretty innocent, but do you really want these people to have access to the information you have on Facebook? In the interest of security, it’s best to avoid these all together. If you have allowed any of these games to access your information in the past, click here for instructions on how to remove them.
Ultimately, even if you’re conscientious online and don’t fall for any of these scams, you need to remember that everything posted online is essentially there forever. If you wouldn’t want it posted on a billboard next to your face by your mom’s house, don’t put it online at all.