Monthly Archives: September 2009

Cyberstalking – that’s so 90’s according to our government

While doing some research for an upcoming seminar, I ran across the Department of Justice report on cyberstalking.  Unfortunately it has not been updated since 1999.  While the posting itself is old, the changes in ways to obtain, view and find information has grown at a more rapid rate.  Protecting your personal information should be the first step at defining your online presence.  So how was cyberstalking defined in 1999?

Although there is no universally accepted definition of cyberstalking, the term is used in this report to refer to the use of the Internet, e-mail, or other electronic communications devices to stalk another person. Stalking generally involves harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person’s home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person’s property

Pretty close to how we would define it now, with more emphasis on the tools and ways of contact.  The report refers to creating anonymous mailboxes somewhere on the Internet through an ISP.  How things have changed.  Now you have a presence all over social networking sites with tons of personal information shared in different levels depending on their defaults and your work at setting preferences.

I believe that this study/document needs a definite update to account for the explosion of sites that every age group is now participating.  We need stronger rules and laws that govern peoples actions in cyberstalking to add controls over the new features being offered.  The section on cybercrime is being updated regularly.  Shouldn’t the section on cyberstalking follow suit?

Facebook privacy combinations leave data open to search engines

A recent article on TheNextWeb spotlighted a possible data leak for Facebook Notes to search engines.  The original report showed how using a simple Google query would bring up Notes from Facebook even with profiles set to private.

Facebook soon responded that yes, the user profiles are private, but the Notes section for the users was public.  A possible combination you can establish in Privacy settings.

This is one of the reasons we push you to watch the videos we are producing on how to properly set and check your privacy settings in Facebook to block unwanted content from being publicly available.

Most would not place or consider very personal information in Notes from everyone we have friended in Facebook.  But even simple information being placed there could be cached and found later through the search engines as you apply for jobs and school.  Referencing and joking about sexual content, racism or off topic jokes could be frowned upon and cost you something in the future.

Visit all of your settings and give them a check.

Facebook friends might be hackers

A recent rash of hackers have decided that emailing you and asking for money is just not the way to go.  Now, hackers are getting into the social networks and assuming identities of others and asking for money.

One of the common ploys now is to pretend that the person they are imitating is out of the country, or state depending on the scenario, and asking you to wire emergency money.  Sophos, the security company, noted this recently in an alert.

I know you say to yourself, well why would I send them anything.  I know it isn’t them.  Really I do.  Think carefully about the scenario itself.  A hacker with access to the social networks of the person in question (normally they use the same password everywhere) will be able to provide incredible amounts of personal data that they could use to try and convince you.

Imagine they break into your email or Facebook account and start asking friends for help.  Soon they send an email or Facebook note to back it up.  Why would the friend suddenly doubt it?  They know about your pictures, emails, communications and possibly even chats.  Odds are you would help.

So what can you do on both sides?  A secure password is a great place to start.  The rules are simple, so stop making life easy.  You can remember a random alphanumeric string of at least 8 characters.  I am sure you can.

If you get one of these emails, be diligent in asking all the right questions.  Did you even know your friend was out of town?  Do you know where they were headed? (don’t send money to Germany when they are in South America).  can they verify anything at all that you would know that wouldn’t be on the networks themselves?

Scary thing is, you are finding it hard to find items you haven’t placed on the networks aren’t you?