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4 reasons why Facebook and Vanity don't mix

Joan Goodchild | March 14, 2011
My colleague, Bill Brenner, has a t-shirt he likes to wear that basically says social networking feeds the darker sides of human nature. The shirt is a parody of a Venn Diagram and shows the relationship between sites like Facebook and Twitter to what some might called undesirable character traits, such as ADHD, stalking and narcissism.

Sharing too much information

It was last year around this time that the Dutch web site developers who created pleasrobme.com made headlines. The site aggregated the Twitter feeds of people who play Foursquare, a location-sharing application that allows users to "check in" from their various geographic whereabouts as part of a game where they earn badges for reaching certain milestones. Pleasrobme pointed out that in doing this, users were also publicly broadcasting that their home is likely unattended and a good "opportunity" (as the site termed it) for thieves.

The site has since been disabled as the creators said their point was made and mission accomplished. But clearly people are still posting their location using Foursquare, as the site boasts about 6 million users. And there have been recent instances of criminals using the pleaserobme mentality to target empty homes. Three men in New Hampshire were arrested last year on charges of burglary after breaking into homes they knew were unattended. The crooks admitted to using Facebook to find targets.

Having too many friends

Having a lot of friends means you are really popular, right? Doubtful. Security experts say having a lot of friends means you'll friend, and accept friend requests from, anyone and aren't very discriminating about your network.

While having a big friends number may make you feel good about yourself, it puts you in some danger. Security firm Sophos conducted a Facebook ID probe last year and created a fabricated Facebook profile before sending out friend requests to individuals chosen at random from across the globe. To conduct the experiment, Sophos set up a profile page for 'Freddi Staur' (an anagram of 'ID Fraudster'), a small green plastic frog who divulged minimal personal information about himself. Sophos then sent out 200 friend requests to observe how many people would respond, and how much personal information could be gleaned from the respondents. The experiment revealed that 82 users, or 41 percent, were willing to divulge personal information, such as email address, date of birth and phone number, to a complete stranger.

This is especially risky is your job gives you access to a VIP or valuable data. Security researchers are noting more attacks that involve criminals who cyber stalk potential victims. The bad guys watch your activity to see what you say, and then use it in an attack.

"There is definitely another network of crime where they are taking time, and closely watching in order to pull off certain things," said Sophos' security advisor Chester Wisniewski.

 

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