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Tech gurus advise caution on social media

Brad Allen, Biz & Tech Editor

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Thinking twice before posting the location of that Spring Break beach photo is a good idea. Retaining skepticism before accepting the Facebook friend request of a person you don’t know who only has two friends added is an even better one.

The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Instructional, Communication & Information Technology (ICIT) services have said cybercriminals have been becoming more creative in their tactics to hack individuals’ credentials or retrieve financial information.

Aside from phishing emails, cyber criminals utilize a wide range of techniques, such as trying to seem as if they are entitled to certain credentials or potentially belong to official organizations.

“It’s important to think about if it could be used against you,” ICIT chief security officer Louann Gilbertson said.

Phone calls supposedly coming from Microsoft about removing viruses from a computer are common.

Gilbertson said a few red flags to watch out for include unknown caller ID addresses, persistent requests for money and repeated emails from one or more sources claiming to contain urgent messages.

In some cases, cyber criminals will use fake photos in photo recognition software tools to gain access to individuals’ information through sites requiring photo identification.

Another common hacking method is for callers to attempt to trick users into saying certain phrases, even something as simple as “yes,” in order to catch them in a loophole of having technically given permission for the hackers to access certain secure information.

When using social media sites such as Facebook, many people include a geotag when uploading photos or making other posts, potentially allowing cybercriminals to identify their location.

“Sometimes people post photos with unintentionally leaked information,” Gilbertson said. “Always ask the question: does the world need to know this information?”

Knowing one’s location might allow hackers to use extortion methods to receive money from the person’s family or friends.

Gilbertson said some people who are vacationing overseas and have shared their location online may be more at risk of being targeted by hackers. In these situations, it’s not uncommon for cybercriminals to contact individuals’ family members claiming to be a medical professional and requesting an immediate money transfer to pay for non-existent hospital bills.

“As far as the evil intent that’s out there, it blows my mind how someone could find it themselves to do it,” Gilbertson said.
Cybercriminals might also ask for money by slipping the request into direct conversation.

“You don’t really know who you might be friending or connecting to,” Gilbertson said. “You don’t know what’s on the other end of that communication stream.”

Senior Margaret Fliess said she only adds people she knows personally on her social media accounts.

“I always try to look at the number of friends they have first,” Fliess said. “If there’s a lot of provocative photos and they only have six friends, then that’s probably not a real person.”

Her advice regarding financial requests from strangers: Don’t send anyone money over the internet.

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The student news site of the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater
Tech gurus advise caution on social media