How safe is your data? – Hacking Facebook

You data is never 100% safe on Facebook or any other 3rd party web service. Your account can be hacked by people who know you if they use your personal info to guess your password or by strangers exploiting vulnerabilities in the service provider's systems. Protect your data by always using strong passwords and always having a backup of data that is important to you.

If I enter the terms “Facebook” and “hack” into any Twitter search engine, I get two major streams of responses – the first is from people who are either hacking their friends/spouses accounts and the other from people advertising how to hack into any Facebook account.

The first is not surprising – I am sure there are many people who would love to put something embarrassing in terms of a status update on their friends account or snoop on their partner.  Not my sort of thing at all and it is wrong – one tweet was particularly frustrated when it said “I hate it when my boss {swear word} makes me hack her husband’s Facebook account- jealous bitch”; but explainable as I am sure that many people use weak passwords based on personal facts their friends know about them.  The golden rule here is of course to choose a strong password – a mixture of capital and lower case letters and numbers and preferably without using any names/info related to you.  For example if my name is John Doe and I was born on 18th June then John1806 is not all that safe, though is of course safer than just using John.  The second rule is don’t leave password information hanging around.  This is not to say don’t trust your spouse/partner or others if you are happy they have access (I do have a list of all my passwords and my wife knows how to access that list for emergencies) – but do think carefully about what passwords you are using and who has access to them and why.

At least the first item is largely under your control; the second – remote hacking – is less so and is of course more worrying – there is no ‘fun’ in hacking 3rd party Facebook accounts; it is malicious and causes damage and a great deal of pain and upset to those whose accounts are modified, lost and/or damaged.  So how often does this happen? – only Facebook can tell us that I suggest, but from the Twitter stream it seems there a lot of accounts being hacked.   There is an interesting article on Techcrunch which talks about one flaw in Facebook that could be exploited (now fixed), and there are many, many adverts promising to explain how to hack Facebook or to do it for you.  So what can you do about this?  Well largely we are all in the hands of the service providers we use to implement adequate protection measures and we know that they are in a constant battle to ensure their systems are up to scratch – their business depends on being good in this regard; however, they can never be 100% proof against hacks and accounts will be hacked as a consequence.  There are two clear actions you can take with any web service you use to protect your data, whether that be Facebook, Flickr, etc: firstly use strong passwords to minimise simple attacks trying to guess your details; secondly recognise your data is not 100% safe on 3rd party services – always have a backup if that data is important to you.