Facebook’s Requirement of ‘Authentic’ Names

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I recently read a Wired article entitled, Help, I’m Trapped in Facebook’s Absurd Pseudonym Purgatory, and it reminded me of an experience I had last month.  I was at a conference and relying  upon my email and Facebook to help me maintain communication with my students, administration and clients.  I was midway in reading a message on Facebook and it shut down.  When I tried to login, I received a message that I needed to confirm my identity in order to logon.  My suspicious brain immediately assumed it was a cybersecurity problem.  With this assumption, the last thing I was going to do was to send them more information.  So, I went to the web and began to check sources regarding this problem and I found that it was really Facebook!  I checked and learned that I either had to send some ID with a picture and address.  Of course, I could send them an ID with my name, such as a driver’s license and picture, or a bill, library card, passport or other kind of document that could prove I was who I claim to be.  I was really troubled about this, but I took a photo of my driver’s license and sent it to Facebook.  Twenty-four hours later I could login to Facebook again.  I don’t really understand the evidence factor … how do they know that photo is of me?  How do they know where I live?  And, I am so glad my social security number is no longer on my driver’s license!

But, what happened?  When you sign up for Facebook, you agree to use your real name.  For several years, I used ‘Vicki Sauter.’  However, at some point, my cousin’s wife whose name is also ‘Vicki’ and who changed her last name when she got married, also joined Facebook.  We were fine until family members had friended both of us.  Then people began to get confused… they would friend her when they thought they thought they were friending me and vice versa.  The same was true with postings and messages.  Now, you know I am a computer person …. my cousin is a Lutheran minister!  The mixup could get quite confusing!  Since her middle name also begins with an ‘L,’ just using a middle initial was not going to solve the problem.  So, we solved the problem:  I changed my Facebook name to Vicki TheGeek Sauter and she changed her Facebook name to Vicki TheRev Sauter.  It was working quite well until someone “reported” me for not having an authentic name.  Believe me, everyone who came to my page knew who I was;  I assume the same was true with my cousin.  So, I gave in and sent them a copy of my driver’s license and my official name is back to Vicki Sauter (TheGeek).  The name in parentheses doesn’t even show up all of the time.

In my case, the result of going back to a name that appears on legal documents is a hassle and may cause confusion.  But, as I began to talk about it and think about it, there could be real problems.  What if someone were only known by friends using a nickname or a middle name?   I had an aunt whose name was Agnes Leone, but almost no one knew her first name (sorry dear, the secret is out), and many of us called her by a nickname, Vicki (it’s a long story).  Might she never be found by her friends?  Or, consider someone who is the victim of a stalker or spousal/child abuse.  Those folks might use a pseudonym to protect their safety.  Who knows who is looking at our profiles, especially if the security settings are not well controlled.  Someone else could ‘share’ your post and then your security is gone.  Or, what about people who join Facebook with a pseudonym because they are concerned that their employers might object to their use of social media.  Does Facebook’s needs really outweigh those people?

When I joined Facebook, no one asked me to prove who I was.  I just want them to make it easy for people to find me.  It’s fine that they know I am Vicki Sauter, but let me put back my “TheGeek” to avoid confusion.  And, figure out a way to make it safe for people who use different names

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IRS and the Internet

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Last night when I came home, there was a message from the IRS indicating that I had to call a special number and give them my personal information immediately or I would be arrested.  A friend of mine received the same message via email.  Another friend, who always pays her bills on time received an email that said the IRS has filed a lawsuit and you must call ….. This email even added, “there will be no further warning.”   These were all intimidating messages, and the IRS has a reputation for being intimidating.  But, they clearly  were all scams because as the IRS Commissioner says, “[their] way of contacting you is by letter.”  They also tend not to threaten you if you don’t pay immediately.  You can view other scams allegedly involving the IRS on their fraud page at http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Fraud-Alerts.

What do you do if you get this call or email?  Hang up the phone and delete the email;  then go on with your life.  Even if these people have personal information or even the last four digits of your social security number, ignore them.  Then report them.

Do you need help using the Internet?

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coverI have a new book and it may just be the thing you have been looking for!  The name of the book is You’re Never Too Old to Surf:  A Senior’s Guide to Safe Internet Use. 

This book is for you if you have ever wanted to harness the power of the Internet, but haven’t been quite sure what that means or how to do it.  It is intended for the parents, grandparents and great-grandparents who want to use the wide range of tools that are available today on the Internet, from simply surfing the web to buying online, using email, blogs and even social networking sites.  You may have sought guidance from your child or children  only to be annoyed at their exasperated response to your questions.  Or, you may have tried it on your own, and gotten frustrated with the tools, or had some problem result from that use (or know someone who did).  You may be using the Internet, but just not feel very confident in what you are doing.  If you fall into any of those categories, I wrote this book for YOU!  Of course, if you are the child or grandchild and are having trouble explaining things to your elders, this book could help you too.

The book is available from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.  Your local bookstore can order it too.  It is published through CreateSpace, ISBN 978-1506163857.

Please give it a try and let me know how you like it.

 

Think Twice about what You Post

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Today I read a post in Facecrooks (which by the way is a positive site to help you protect yourself, despite the name) about a man whose posts lead to negative consequences.  The post started with:

According to police in Philadelphia, a 19-year-old man was targeted by three robbers after he posted on Facebook and Instagram about an inheritance of jewelry he had just received.

The three robbers kicked down the door of the victim’s home at 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning, making off with a Rolex watch, several gold chains and mobile phones. Thankfully no one in the home was hurt, but the robbers have not yet been caught.

According to the Hickory Record, the robbers were caught and during the questioning, they mentioned they had heard about the inheritance.  Clearly the young man who received the inheritance never intended for strangers to know about his good luck.

This is a case of not having Facebook privacy controls set appropriately.  To check YOUR settings, go to the small arrow at the far end of the blue border at the top of your Facebook page.  Click the arrow and select “Settings” as shown below.

Checking Facebook Settings

Checking Facebook Settings

At that point,select “Privacy” from the left menu.  You will see a screen that begins with “Who can see my Stuff.”  If you have not already set it, this probably says “everyone.”  If so, edit it and and select the “custom” button.  You might want to set that to just your friends, or friends of friends.  Or, you can set it so that only specific people can view what you post.

If you have something valuable, such as the jewelry inheritance, you want the post to be sent only to your friends, and maybe not even all of them.  You can use your lists of people to narrow the group further.  If you have it set as “everyone,” not only can everyone who happens on your page read it, but they can also share it with everyone they know.  With this kind of visibility, it is not surprising that the bad guys got the news.

You need not adjust those settings the same for everyone.  But, for valuables or for photos of children (especially with other information), it is best to limit the range of people who see your post.

Phishing

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Yep, “phishing” is a real thing, and you pronounce it the same as “fishing”.  Like fishing, phishing uses bait in an effort to hook something.  Unlike fishing, phishing doesn’t look for fish, but rather for sensitive information.  Phishing attempts to use an apparently trustworthy request to gain usernames and passwords to get access to more computers and/or credit card and other financial information to get money.

The key to phishing is that the request appears to be legitimate.  An email might be constructed to have the same look as those from your bank or other financial institution.  Or, the email might appear to be a bill from a company with which you do business.  Today phishing happens withing social networking tools, such as Facebook,  too.  These might be realized as:

A game or lottery.  In this kind of phishing, you may get an email or a Facebook post that claims you have won money.  Unfortunately, to get to the money, you must send them money or access to your bank account.

A request to confirm your account  These emails or social networking program ask you to log into a system that appears to be the legitimate.  Often these are sites that are appropriately branded and look as you expect them to be, but aren’t.  Never click on a link in  the email or social networking message;  the site might not take you where it appears to be.  The better approach is to log in manually.  So, if the message appears to be from Facebook, don’t click on the link, but instead type in http://www.facebook.com and proceed from there.

A violated policy alert.  You may note an email or Facebook post that claims you have broken some policy in your email system, Facebook or some other social networking system.  These always ask you to log in and do something.  Always navigate to the site manually.  Don’t provide information unless you are sure you are on the correct site.

Photos and Videos.  It is quite common for people who have hacked one account to try to get more information by sending information to contacts that appear to be from the original owner of the account.  These messages might claim to have videos or photos of you that are not appropriate.  Or, the message might claim to have photographic proof of some gory or sensational event.  These are almost always an attempt to get access to your account.  You should ignore t hem.

Before logging in to any site, always verify that you are indeed on the main site. Careless and unsuspecting users are often fooled by these tricks.

Cybersecurity, Sony, and You

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By now, I assume you have heard about the hacking of Sony’s computers last month.   Just to remind you, Sony produced a comedy film about two fellows who were supposed to assassinate Kim Jong-un, called The Interview.   There was significant publicity before the movie was released;  personally I did not find the commercials compelling and had not planned to view the movie.  Then, just before it was to be released suddenly Sony’s computers fell victim to a significant hacking attack.  Financial data, including social security numbers and identities, were released.  Equally embarrassing were the masses of personal emails which highlighted the dysfunctional nature of the film business.  In addition, the hackers “wiped” most of the computers “clean,” meaning the data are lost to Sony.  Estimates of the damage are in the millions, far more than the value of the film.

Early reports blamed North Korean hackers for this attack.  Then reports suggested that the hackers were really not from North Korea, simply “sympathizers” with North Korea.  Then the focus turned to North Korea again.  The Federal Government seems fairly sure that fault lies with the North Koreans.  However, whoever was behind the hack announced they would do no further damage if Sony never released the film.  So, Sony halted release of the movie.  It did later get released amid cries of the inappropriateness of the North Koreans censoring our media.

So, what do we know? Clearly Sony was hacked.  Evidence suggests that the intrusion had been occurring for more than a year, prior to the release of data.  Could it have been the North Koreans given their lack of technology?  We have known since 1998 of the formidable capabilities of the DPRK army’s Unit 121;  at that date, its force was 17,000 hackers (there are probably more now).   Further, North Korean officials had previously expressed concerns about the film to the United Nations, stating that “to allow the production and distribution of such a film on the assassination of an incumbent head of a sovereign state should be regarded as the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war. [emphasis added]”   Could it have been someone else who sympathizes with them?  Yes.  The Guardians of Peace have made threats against the United States, and they have the capability.

The question though is what is the impact on you?  Well, assuming you are not one of the employees or dependents whose private information or communications were released, this is primarily a wake up call is the impact that hacking can have on us as individuals and us as a society.  First, to us as individuals.  Those people whose financial data were exposed may run into a variety of problems from credit card fraud to identity theft.  Someone, whether it is Sony, the individuals themselves, or others, will need to spend much time and money to ensure that the people are made whole again.  You run the same risk every time you use a credit card (whether on or off the net), or connect to the Internet.

The more interesting question, though, is what happens to us as a society.  Sony will spend a small fortune recreating its data bases, correcting information and repairing relationships with its customers.  Of course, they will need to create a better security system to protect the recreated repositories.  That means that the costs of Sony movies will increase and we will all be forced to pay for it.  Perhaps this experience will frighten all of the studios to invest more money and so that the costs of all movies increase.  Well, today it is just a cost of doing business.

Bigger than that, however, is the threat that if another government (or perhaps another company or group of people) doesn’t like what you produce, they can affect it by hacking into your computers or even threatening to hack into your computers.  What will that do to the freedom of speech and expression in this country?  What will it do to entrepreneurship in this country?  For that matter, what will it do to the governing of this country?

In this case, the cost was primarily financial.  What happens when the hack is against our power grid,  water systems, or hospitals?  The implications of that are far worse.

We all need to be careful about computer security, and we need to think about the tradeoffs with ease of use.  And, all of us need to put pressure on corporations to improve their security systems from the bottom up.

 

 

Facebook Privacy

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If you use Facebook regularly, you probably have seen the following in the last couple of days:

PRIVACY NOTICE: Warning – any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental structure including but not limited to the United States Federal Government also using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, you do NOT have my permission to utilize any of my profile information nor any of the content contained herein including, but not limited to my photos, and/or the comments made about my photos or any other “picture” art posted on my profile.

You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein. The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employee , agent , student or any personnel under your direction or control.

The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law. UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE

Ignore it, it is one of many hoaxes that appear on Facebook.   As I understand it, the law cited has to do with commercial law, and does not address anything about privacy in Facebook or otherwise.

BUT, the hoax does remind us of an important topic, Facebook Privacy.  Your privacy in Facebook is controlled by you through your privacy settings.   To find your privacy settings, look for the small arrow on the top right hand portion of your Facebook page, circled in the image below.   If you click on it you should get a listing of pages you own and some options.

 

From this menu, select “Privacy Settings,”  and you will get a menu of your various Facebook settings like:

 

These are the items that you can control.  Clicking on the blue “Edit Settings” will allow you to control the items in those categories.  So, if you select “edit settings” in “How you connect” you see a menu such as the one below:

 

 

This literally shows who can see you and request friendship or send messages.  In my case, I have left these settings open.  I have provided no telephone numbers, so there is nothing to see.  If I provided phone numbers, though, I would make sure only “Friends” could see the numbers.  By leaving open the email address, this allows people to find me by searching on the email.

I do know people who have limited who can send friend requests to only friends of friends.  It does limit the number of times you get friend requests, but it does limit your network to people in certain categories of your life.  If that is what you want, then button it down.

The second category is what people can post in the profiles or how Facebook controls tagging.

As you can see from the drop down box, in each case you can show the information to everyone (who has a Facebook account), to Friends of Friends, or just Friends.  In addition, you can limit it to people on certain lists, or even specify the friends using custom.  For example, I have limited who can post to or see my wall to Friends.  Although little of what I post on Facebook is too personal, I do not want everyone in the world being able to read it.   Limiting it to my friends does give me some control.

Now, what if you want to limit a specific post or photo?  Facebook does give you the ability to do that individually through the inline audience selector.  When you are posting, there is a blue menu at the bottom of the post as shown below.

 

Using the small arrow, you can select who can see the post to limit it to only some people, all your friends or everyone.  This gives you individual control.

A WORD OF WARNING:  While it is important to control your privacy settings so that unintended people do not get control of your personal information, you need to remember that once something is posted, you lose control of that information.  People who can see your post can easily re-post it or save it and post it somewhere else.  This is not a case of “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”  Rather, it is a case of “it is on the Internet FOREVER.”  Before you post, think carefully about how much of a problem you might have if the information ended up with your boss or co-workers, a potential boss, members of your family or whatever.  It might not be a problem today, but if it stays there forever, you might find it to be a problem later.

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