How social media jokes are stealing privacy credentials

NAIROBI, KENYA: Have you participated in that joke or a meme of "who is likely to marry you this year," "how you will look like in thirty years to come," "what is your Canaanite name?" or "how you would like as an opposite gender." If yes, you could be sharing your Facebook login credentials with a third or fourth party! 

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, FourSquare, Google+ and SnapChat have changed the way people interact or associate in life.

However, these social media networks have also become conduits for malice, delinquents as well as criminal investigators who are seeking to know whom you are chatting with, and what you are chatting about. Besides, data collection on social media users is both a raw material and a business at the same time. 

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Some of the links that connect social media users to jokes or memes are harmful sites which have been developed by malicious programmers so as to steal login credentials as well as vital information from unsuspecting users. 

These links can also be used to inject virus or malware into an organization's Information Communication Technology (ICT) systems with a lot of ease. Philip Scala, a private investigator based in New York explains that, "hackers tend to use the shortened URLs to trick their victims into visiting harmful sites or to inject viruses into their computers or mobile phones." 

Currently, the most valuable commodity in the entire world is neither gold nor oil; it's data – information that can be used to determine the next course and cause of life. Data is essential for decision-making, strategy development, political-persuasion and for staging financial, economic or combat wars. Data has a lot to do with people who can be converted into a business entity or a narrowed interest initiative. 

Some of the social media jokes or memes have been developed by large corporations and organisations which are seeking to know more about particular individuals – in terms of their contacts, login credentials, interests, income, religious views, criminal records, private life, level of honestly and their generals views about life. These details are important for organisations or individuals who are developing strategies for public or clandestine projects. 

Cyber criminals use these links to lure their victims into giving out important details such as email addresses and passwords without knowing. Some of these e-mail addresses and passwords are also used in bank account transactions. A more disturbing fact is that many people have saved or linked important details such as bank account Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) to their email addresses. This means that cyber criminals are able to gain an entry into your bank account without any struggles.

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The other approach is where a contaminated link installs a spyware on your mobile phone, laptop, iPad or/and computer remotely via downloads, emails, shortened URLs or instant messages. The spyware will then give hackers information about the passwords, PINs, phone numbers, account numbers and emails addresses that you have ever used on your device – whether computer, mobile phone or a tablet.

"The simplest way to avoid being a victim is to never click on links unless you are sure of the actual source. Identity thieves tend to gather their victims' personal information from the information available on the social media sites," explains Philip Scala.    

Many identity thieves tend to hack their victims email accounts by simply using the personal information available on social media profile. For instance, one of the more common techniques used by identity thieves, is clicking on the "forgot password," and then trying to recover the password via email. Once they access your email account, they basically have access to all of your personal life.

Privacy protection: quick tips

What can you do to protect your privacy on social media? Here are a few quick suggestions:

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Use strong passwords, and don't use the same password for multiple accounts.

Don't use social media on public devices, and if you must, make sure to log out afterward.

Disable access to geolocation data for your social media apps.

Be wary about clicking links on social media.

Use two-factor authentication or password-reset checks for all your accounts.

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Even on your private social profiles, keep personal information to a minimum.

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