Staying Safe Online

With many of us turning to online platforms and social media to maintain communication during these unprecedented times (often for the first time), there is a risk that we may inadvertently become prey to some of the more unsavoury elements of the world wide web. To help us avoid these, John Canham of Lodge of True Aim No 9930 has produced the following short guide to some of the potential risks to look out for:

In these difficult times it is great to see how we all seem to have been embracing new technology to stay in touch with each other and continue our traditions in a virtual sense. There has been a veritable explosion in the use of social media over the last few weeks; especially the likes of Zoom, House Party, Facebook and Instagram.

However, a word of caution (and please don’t think I am trying to teach anyone to suck eggs): it is very easy, in a moment of boredom, to find yourself playing a game or doing a Question & Answer quiz without really thinking about what it is you are doing.

These games and posts ask questions such as, “What was your favourite teacher’s name?”, “Who was your history teacher?”, “Who was your childhood best friend?”, “What was your first car?”, “Post the 3rd picture from your camera roll” etc.

Do these questions sound familiar? They should – these are the same questions you are asked as security questions when setting up bank accounts, online shopping accounts and credit card accounts. When answering these questions and posting them, you are giving out answers to your security questions that you may be using without realising it. Cyber criminals are setting these up as a ‘get to know each other better’ game on Facebook. Therefore, I jokingly asked about your 3rd picture – as some of you may or may not know, your pictures may have geolocation turned on so people will know exactly where you took that picture! This allows cyber criminals to build a profile of you and use this information to hack your accounts or open new lines of credit in your name.

Not all of these on Facebook are scams. However, it is best to remain vigilant and refrain from participating in such activities as there is no way to tell which ones may have been created by scammers.

Make sure to check your photos published to Facebook as they too can have identifiable information. An example would be a picture of your university degree or your child’s degree.

Look at it from the perspective of a criminal – they’re ruthless and don’t care what’s going on in the world!

Here are a couple of examples that have appeared on my own timeline in recent time:

  1. Can you remember your number? (This was aimed at armed forces people as it is a number you remember for life and is often used in passwords)
  2. This sounds like fun. On your own Facebook wall, list six famous people you’ve met, but ONE is a lie. People leave a reply to who they think is the lie. Here’s mine, let’s play.
  3. Share a picture of you in uniform – let’s flood Facebook with positivity! (This has the potential for singling you out for further Q&A as well as identifying you as a member/ex-member of emergency services or armed forces)
  4. I wish more people did these. It’s fun to learn odd little things:

    First job – xxxx
    Current job – xxxx
    Dream job – xxxx
    Favourite dinner – xxxx
    Favourite dog – xxxx
    Favourite footwear – xxxx
    Favourite chocolate bar – xxxx
    Favourite ice cream – xxxx
    Your vehicle colour – xxxx
    Favourite holiday – xxxx
    Early bird or night owl – xxxx
    Favourite day of the week – xxxx
    Tattooes – xxxx
    Favourite colour – xxxx
    Do you like vegetables – xxxx
    Do you wear glasses – xxxx
    Favourite season – xxxx

    Someone do this with me! Just copy and paste.

Another great example of social media being used to commit crime is when you share posts such as: “I’m having a beer at the airport before my two-week cruise” – that is a superb way of advertising that your home is likely to be empty for the next few weeks. Indeed, insurance companies do now actually check your social media history if you report a burglary that has taken place whilst you are on holiday and have, on occasion, refused to honour a claim as you have put yourself at risk and in their view ‘nullified’ your insurance in doing so. Share your holiday adventures, but perhaps think about doing so once you have returned home!

So, next time you get a harmless looking game or questionnaire shared to you, simply pause for a moment and ask yourself: “do I really want to do this?” I have no desire to be a killjoy, spreading doom and gloom, but I have no desire either to hear about financial or other harm coming to any of my fellow Brethren as a result of cybercrime.

As Shaw Taylor would say: “Stay safe and keep em peeled!”

John Canham
Lodge of True Aim No 9930