Avoiding Facebook Hacks and Fakes

Top 3 Myths about Hackers on Facebook from thatsnonsense.com provides some good information, though in my experience trying to explain to people the difference between being hacked and having installed rogue software is usually futile. All they know is their computer is doing something they didn’t plan, and they want it to stop.

It’s difficult to be absolutely safe while still making use of the internet, but I have several suggestions.

  1. Don’t add any Facebook app that you don’t actually need. The vast majority are harmless, and Facebook does a quite good job of weeding out the bad ones, but it’s still quite possible to get caught by a bad one. Often people install apps or other programs because they look mildly interesting, but never really use them, then they don’t uninstall them. It’s a good idea to know what’s on your computer and remove things you know you aren’t going to use.
  2. Only add a limited number of browser add-ons, such as toolbars. I’ve gotten calls from people who say their internet has slowed to the point of uselessness, where I find that they have six or seven toolbars installed. You need one toolbar at most. I don’t even use that many.
  3. Watch your installation programs. A number of installation wizards add toolbars or additional programs, and have these checked by default. Recently I’ve observed these on installation of Adobe Flash Player and a Java update. In both cases the additional item was checked by default. Unless you know you want it, uncheck it. That means actually reading all of those messages before clicking “Next.”
  4. Know what antivirus you use. Know what its logo looks like. It’s not absolute protection, but there are fake antivirus programs, and you can often catch on to an attack early if you recognize that you are getting messages that aren’t form your antivirus.
  5. It’s tempting to delay scanning your computer. Don’t! Scan regularly.
  6. It’s tempting to delay an update to your antivirus. Don’t! Update as often as you can.
  7. And … obviously underlying points 5 & 6, make sure you do have antivirus and your firewall is turned on. There are a number of free options available, such as Microsoft Security Essentials, AVG Free, Avast (free edition), and ClamAV.
  8. A link checker such as McAfee Site Advisor can prevent many infections as well.

This list is by no means complete, but following these rules would have prevented the vast majority of the infections I’ve been called on to clean up.

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