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Hackers fetch user data from Facebook pet posts

Posted at 11:02 PM, Mar 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-05 10:09:44-05

BALTIMORE  — Seemingly harmless Facebook posts asking questions about your pets are causing some concerns over potential security risks.

One says "Enter your pet's name in the GIF bar and see what Facebook finds!" Another reads "Honor a pet who is no longer with you, who you miss dearly. What was their name?"

Many have disclosed the personal information without a second thought, but some are questioning the intention. Pets names are very common security questions.

"If I can find out what your pet's name is or what your favorite sport is or get an understanding of what things you like on social media, I could use that to theoretically impersonate you. If I call your bank and try to verify myself on your behalf to get access to your account, change your password and then do what I want on your account," Richard Forno, director of UMBC's Cybersecurity graduate program, said.

He says while posts like this don't necessarily set off any alarms for him, it shows the power of social media.

"Social media is very tempting to pass along private information or personal information, even if it's not private, that could possibly be used against us," Forno said.

He says the easiest way to keep your information sage is to think twice before you click.

"Always keep in the back of your mind, 'who may see this information?' I don't want to turn people into paranoid citizens but we live in an age where there's so much information about us out there that's already publicly available, why make more problems for ourselves?" Forno said.

He says if you want to go even further, consider changing up your security questions.

"Those aren't questions for a government security application so no one says you have to tell the truth," Forno said. "The teller, the bank, the customer service representative on the phone or the other computer, they don't care what the answer is as long as whatever I tell them matches what they have in their system so that right there makes it more difficult for bad guy to guess that my favorite car is Chewbacca. They probably aren't going to guess that."