The whole premise of social media is to meet people you may never have otherwise met. It can open business opportunities, introduce you to people all over the world, and perhaps help you meet your future spouse. It can also open you to significant risk.
Think about your Facebook page or other favorite social media channel of choice. I bet you’ve exposed lots of sensitive information over time and didn’t even realize it. You provide personal information right in your profile: the town where you grew up; where you went to high school/college; your birthday. Beyond your profile, what pictures have you posted in your social media accounts, and what kind of information do you share about yourself? Do you root for your favorite sports teams? Did you upload pictures of your first car? Do you talk about the first job you ever had?
Now think about the “security questions” you’ve been asked by a website (say, your online banking website) when creating your profile. These are the Challenge Questions they ask to allow you access into your account if you forgot your password. In what town did you grow up? Where did you go to college? Your favorite sports team? Your first car? Your first job?
Sound familiar? Are you getting a sinking feeling yet? You should be.
With your email address and the information you freely shared on the web, someone can fairly easily get access to some pretty sensitive accounts. That’s why security experts have been shaking their heads about Facebook’s Social Graph. It is a phisher’s dream.
So how do you combat it? You can close down every social media account and never share another thing about yourself online ever again. But that’s probably not very practical. So here’s an alternative that can actually be a little fun: create an alter ego. Write a whole new life story about yourself. Maybe you were born in Bermuda and your first job was as a barber pole painter. Your first pet was a salamander named Gustav and your first car was a 1957 BMW 507. See how you can have some fun with it?
Now, when websites ask you to complete your Challenge Questions, answer them with your alter ego answers instead of answering them honestly. Obviously you never want to share your alter ego story with anyone or you’re defeating the purpose. And don’t forget the old adage about dishonesty: when you lie you have to remember what you said!