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It’s Good News, Bad News for World Password Day

Passwords. They are a necessary part of our lives, but we simply do not give them the attention they deserve. Just like exercise keeps us fit and healthy eating keeps us slim, so do strong passwords keep us safe. So why do we continue to neglect them?

Since we just had World Password Day on May 3 this year, the day we should all change our passwords, it seemed a good time to revisit the topic and see if we can’t up our game—and our level of security. So here’s the good news bad news on passwords in 2018…bad news first.

The bad news: We still use poor passwords
First, the bad news. We are still using poor passwords—as in really, really bad passwords. When SplashData published the worst passwords of 2017 list, they reported that almost 3% of us are still using 123456 as a password. Worse, almost 10% of us are using one of the 25 worst possible passwords, listed here:

  1. 123456
  2. Password
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. 12345
  6. 123456789
  7. letmein
  8. 1234567
  9. football
  10. iloveyou
  11. admin
  12. welcome
  13. monkey
  14. login
  15. abc123
  16. starwars
  17. 123123
  18. dragon
  19. passw0rd
  20. master
  21. hello
  22. freedom
  23. whatever
  24. qazwsx
  25. trustno1

You can see a full list of the 100 worst passwords of 2017. And if you see your password on that list, change it!

The good news: An easy way to beef up your passwords
It’s not all bad news for World Password Day, however. Despite our tendency to choose poor passwords still, technology is making it easier for us to keep our information and data secure—should we choose to act on it.

This year at the World Password Day website, you’ll see a campaign for #LayerUp. Layering up simply means adding another “layer” of protection by requiring more than one step to access your data. Called either multi-factor authentication (MFA) or two-factor authentication (2FA), it’s a way to make your password require something else too, like a fingerprint or a code sent to your cellphone.

To try it out, I logged into my bank account online and sure enough found the setting to add the second layer right away. Now when I log in, I will need my password and a code sent to my cell phone. It took me less than a minute to do, and I’m glad I took the time. All you do is visit www.twofactorauth.org to find out if a website offers the extra layer, and many popular banking and social media websites do.

The World Password Day website still encourages a strong password (see password advice here), and we still encourage you to beef up those passwords a.s.a.p., but in addition to that, you can easily add this extra step or layer—and keep your information that much safer from those who would like to compromise it.

How Do You Keep Using Facebook but Minimize Your Risk?

Now that the major Facebook fail has come to light and we’re realizing just how vulnerable our personal data can be when using social media, many of us are trying to figure out how to limit our exposure without going so far as to #deletefacebook. After all, it has—for better or worse—become a de facto way of staying in touch, with friends, with community events and with people of like-minded interests.

If you’re looking for ways to limit exposure without deleting your Facebook account altogether, you can. Below are suggestions based on my own experience in taking these steps to protect myself. It takes a little legwork, as you’ll see, but the peace of mind is worth it.

First, change how you use Facebook
According to Facebook, I’ve been a user since 2007. Way back then, I didn’t know enough to be concerned about privacy. I freely shared information both in my profile and through my posts, and accepted friend requests willy nilly. Over time, I did start to think about these issues. I unfriended hundreds of people who weren’t really friends, I shared less, and I removed some of the personal information I had previously included in my profile.

In light of the recent news about Cambridge Analytica, however, I realized I still had a lot of work to do. So I dug deeper to find out what else I could change…

Second, share less information
The data collected about you is provided by you. But you can limit the amount of information you make accessible in two ways: remove some of it from your profile and share less on Facebook.

  • Removing information from your profile: Do you need to include your high school, college or hometown in your profile information? I realized that no, I do not. I went through and cleaned up my profile to remove that kind of information, as well as my phone number and other personal info that was unnecessary.
  • Sharing less often: You create data about you not only by posting on Facebook, but also by sharing and liking other posts and even things outside of Facebook that you share via Facebook. If you cut back on that kind of usage, you’ll cut back on the data collected about you.

Third, don’t use Facebook as your login elsewhere
When you need to create a login at a new site, you’re often given the option of simply logging in via Facebook. How easy is that? I used to do it! Now I don’t. I had to go back to some websites and create new logins in order to remove those sites and apps from my Facebook account, and that was a pain, but worth it.

Moving forward, take a minute to create new login rather than use your Facebook login and this won’t be an issue.

To see where you’ve already allowed access, you can log in to your Privacy Settings and Tools to review what kinds of access you’ve allowed, as well as the Apps you’ve granted access to. There you can remove the apps and sites you don’t want connected.

I was shocked to see the dozens of apps and websites that had access to my account, most of which I didn’t even recognize. Removing them took a while as I had to check the box next to each one at a time (without any “Select All” option) then click Remove. All told, I removed 41 apps and websites: 41!

Fourth, review information in your profile
I went through this exercise, and I was shocked at how much personal information I had shared via my Facebook data, some of it very old. For example, I had written an About description six years ago, in 2012, and I don’t even remember writing it!

I couldn’t figure out how to delete everything I want to delete. For example, I don’t share my birth year because you’re not supposed to as it makes you vulnerable to identity theft. But Facebook has it. It’s in my profile information. It’s not public to the world or even my Facebook friends, but it is readily available to Facebook, and I can’t change that.

Fifth, review your Ad settings
You can also check your Ads settings and delete those interests you don’t want used to target ads to you. I had to laugh while going through this process because so many of the interests Facebook associates with me or anything but! In addition, you can see the categories you’re included in and the “about you” information advertisers are using to target you.

Then there is the information under “Advertisers you’ve interacted with.” For me, I had nothing under the actual ads interacted with, but I have hundreds of advertisers showing up in the category “Who have added their contact list to Facebook.” Facebook says of this category, “These advertisers are running ads using a contact list they uploaded that includes contact info you shared with them or with one of their data partners.” And that’s kind of scary. Because not only do I not recognize most of these advertisers, but I don’t understand how they have my name until I see the words “data partners” and I realize just how much data sharing goes on—which is what I’m trying to avoid. (Notice I said have and not had. That’s because there are so many of these advertisers that I ran out of time to delete them all…and I don’t even know if that’s possible, there are so many—a sobering thought!)

Sixth, download your Facebook data
I didn’t not go so far as to download my Facebook data, but it is an option. For me, what I’ve shared, I’ve shared. I can’t delete it. Even deleting my Facebook account wouldn’t delete the data collected about me. But for someone curious to see what that data is, you can.

I don’t want to #deletefacebook. As people and organizations have moved away from email as a way to communicate, Facebook is how I find out about events in my small town and milestones in the lives of distant friends (because my family and close friends stay in touch in other ways). That said, I don’t want to share any more than I have to, and I hope the steps I’m taking help to minimize my risk—and that my experience might help you to do the same.

When Likes Lead to Liability: The Dangers of Like-Farming on Facebook

Imagine you’re scrolling along, scanning your newsfeed in Facebook and willy nilly liking things you see—not liking as in thinking, “Oh, I like that,” but liking as in clicking the “Like” button. That seems like a harmless activity, right? And it should be.

But it’s not.

As with most things in this world, Facebook “Likes” have been turned into a tool for nefarious behavior.

Called like-farming, it’s activity not allowed on Facebook but it happens anyway.

Like-farming on Facebook
The goal of a so-called like-farmer is to get likes. Farming is a good word for the activity: These people essentially start Facebook pages, “plant” content, and “grow” the numbers of likes—then “harvest” that information.

Think pictures of adorable kittens, or the photos of children with captions such as, “How many likes can she get?” These are the kinds of posts designed for one purpose: to get likes.

As people click on the Like button, these “planted” posts grow in popularity and therefore show up in even more newsfeeds—because Facebook is based on giving you more of what you seem to like, quite literally.

This all sounds harmless but it doesn’t stop there. According to the Consumer Affairs website, the next steps are the harmful ones:

“…once the page has a sufficiently high popularity rating, the like-farmer either removes the page’s original content and replaces it with something else (usually malware or scam advertising); leaves the page as is and uses it as a platform for continued like-farming in order to spread malware, collect people’s marketing information or engage in other harmful activities; or outright sells the highly liked site to cybercriminals in a black market web forum.”

Whoa. We’re not talking about kittens or cute kids any longer, are we!

Ways to protect yourself from like-farming on Facebook
Although the emotional posts are the ones we’re used to seeing as Facebook users, there are other tricks like farmers use, like fake contests or fake charity donations or posts that ask you to like if you’re also a (fill in the blank). An article at That’s Nonsense lists all kinds of ways like farmers trick people into liking and sharing posts. We highly recommend you read it.

That said, it’s easy to protect yourself from like-farming. We’ll start with the obvious: Don’t click on the Like button for everything you see. You can mentally appreciate a post without physically telling the world that you like it. You can also keep yourself safe with these tips if you want to keep clicking “Like” without worry:

  • Be suspicious. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Err on the side of caution.
  • If a post says you have to like, share and/or comment to take part in a contest, don’t.
  • Don’t be guilted into liking, sharing or commenting. You know those posts that say most people won’t copy/paste/share? That’s using guilt to get you to participate. Pass those posts by.
  • Be especially cautious about liking posts that are deliberately meant to pull at your heart strings. Like-farmers have no integrity. They will use a picture of a child with Down syndrome, a wounded warrior or an abused animal to their advantage. They will encourage you to click “Like” if you hate cancer, or type “Amen” if you love Jesus. You get the idea.
  • Also, any post that is out there to see how many likes it can get, from supposed photo contests to school experiments, should be avoided.
  • For more information, check out the tips on spotting like-farming posts here.

Lest you think it’s not such a big deal if you click on a dubious post, keep in mind that you are taking part in a scam when you do so, and encouraging others to follow suit. If your Facebook friends see that you’ve liked something, they might do the same. Should there be negative consequences to that, when the like-farmer gets to the “harvest” step, you’ll be the one that put their information at risk. Don’t be that guy.

And don’t like everything on Facebook either.

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