Guarding Against Social Engineering

Do you know who’s reading the information you post on your Facebook page? A recent Consumer Reports study found 13 million U.S. Facebook users don’t use the website’s privacy controls! It may not seem like a big deal, but making information available to people outside your personal network of friends, family and coworkers could leave you vulnerable to something known as social engineering hacking.

What is social engineering hacking?

It’s kind of a mix between old-school face-to-face conning and technology-based hacking. A Forbes article published last month dubs social engineering as “hacking the human mind,” because it doesn’t rely entirely on malicious computer code to exploit victims. A social engineer hacker collects information about the target’s lifestyle habits and personal preferences to design attacks that specifically target the individual.

According to the Forbes article, one of the ways social engineers are collecting personal information to use against their targets is through social media. Armed with this information, social engineer hackers can mix in traditional hacking methods to compromise security and access personal information.

For example, social engineers can collect work history information from a target’s LinkedIn profile and use that to design attacks that trick users into clicking malicious links or downloading software that infects their computers.

Risks extend beyond your computer

Your privacy controls protect more than just your computer’s health, they also protect you. The Consumer Reports survey also found a 30 percent increase in the number of people who said they had Facebook-related trouble. Some users even said they had been harassed.

The problem goes back to privacy settings and limiting the amount of personal information you publish. Unless you methodically manage the information you post, even applications that your friends are using may be able to access more of your profile than intended.

How to protect yourself against social hacking

With hackers trying to hack both you and your computer, it’s easy to be a little intimidated. The Chicago Tribune recently published an article highlighting ways to increase social media security. One of the big ones is to keep your antivirus software and browsers up-to-date. Because social media applications have access to your profile, review your applications on a regular basis and delete the ones you don’t use. Remember to block applications you don’t recognize, and, If you see an interesting story posted to your friend’s wall and aren’t sure of the source, use Google to find the story on a reputable news source, so you don’t unintentionally click your way to a malicious website.

Scott Cornell

When he’s not knee deep in blogging and all things tech, Scott spends his free time playing ultimate Frisbee and watching foreign films. An expert in emerging tech trends, Scott always has his ear to ground for breaking news related to IT security.