WHEN Mark Zuckerberg set about developing the first Facebook prototype, he intended it initially to connect only a couple of students on his campus. A little over a decade later, this social-media app has reached and connected more than 1.8 billion monthly users all over the world, transcending geographical, social, cultural and religious barriers. Today, Facebook has emerged as a tool that has brought a total difference to how people communicate, share thoughts, promote their views and opinions and even influence their respective communities.
These last few years, however, people have also seen how Facebook and other social-media platforms propagate troubling issues, which pose threats to the security of the users, especially when interactions become less personal as these platforms evolve.
People who are socially awkward or shy suddenly feel empowered. It is also becoming more apparent that social skills have changed. People have become less able to cope with interpersonal interactions because they can conveniently hide behind their profiles.
There is also the problem of “oversharing”. Many Facebook users tend to share too much information about themselves, their families, their habits and their lives without realizing that they are exposing themselves to potential cybercrimes.
For instance, Facebook users who overshare are at risk of identity theft. According to the latest report of the Philippine National Police-Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG), this is the third in the top cybercrime cases filed with them last year with 288 cases as compared to 101 cases in 2015 and only 61 in 2014.
Cyber criminals may steal users’ information through social engineering. They create fake accounts and establish trust with their possible victims over time. Once it is built, they will ask them to divulge information, like banking details and passwords, and commit crimes against them.
Cyber criminals may also ask Facebook users to click on links that might infect their computers with malware. URLs can be manipulated to make it hard to identify whether it links to a legitimate or malicious site.
The principle social-media users should bear in mind is that any information they post online should no longer be considered private. They need to be mindful about their status updates, and avoid revealing their whereabouts. For instance, potential burglars may break into their homes if they know they are away in Europe for an extended holiday. Making public their daily routines, and revealing their children’s names, schools and birthdates may also put their family in harm’s way.
While Facebook and other social-media applications continue to strengthen their measures to ensure cyber security, users must always remember that they are in the driver’s seat; they are in control. As we become more and more connected, the opportunity for people to make nefarious moves against us also increases. It is always wise to exercise caution where Facebook and social media is concerned. Users must exercise restraint and common sense.
Like other tools that have emerged before it , Facebook has changed the world for the better by connecting people and effecting social changes, but it can also be used against the very people it is supposed to serve.
Jeff Castillo is the country manager for Fortinet Philippines Inc. The views Castillo expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the BusinessMirror’s.