Expert warns of the dangers of ‘oversharing’ on social media


KNOXVILLE (WATE) – More than 65 percent of all adults have social media accounts on sites like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Despite all the security features, is your information really safe? Are you paving an easy path for identity thieves?

Computer security expert Bill Dean, with Sword and Shield Enterprises, works with companies to show them their weaknesses and how to protect themselves. He and Knox County mother of two Karen Schemmel had never met before WATE 6 On Your Side asked Dean to see what he could learn from Schemmel’s public profile.

“You have everything very secure. I could learn very little from you at all,” Dean told Schemmel.

Without being friends on Facebook, Dean could only find out Schemmel’s maiden name and some generic public information through some other online searches. For the sake of our investigation, the two became friends on Facebook and that is when oversharing becomes a big security concern. One simple thing Dean points out is the fact that she lists her date of birth.

“You may call into a call center or reset a password to verify who you are. They may ask what is your birthdate,” Dean said.

Dean went on to say when you couple that with information about where she went to high school and college, you can start getting into some trouble.

“We want to share everything, but we don’t realize its is like bread crumbs that someone can put together and create a new identity or use to know much more about us than we want people to know.”

Related story: How smart are you? IQ test scams Facebook users

To give a real life example, Dean pointed to the Sarah Palin email hacking from 2008. “That all came about because he reset her password based on public information, just like this,” he said.

Even if you have your privacy settings for just people you know, Deans says everyday posts can sometimes be “too much.” He says you should understand that what is posted to social media should be considered permanent. Assume that what you post will be viewed by the world, not just your friends. Don’t publicize information on social media that you use for “challenge questions” to authenticate yourself to banks or reset passwords.

Schemmel says these are things she will definitely keep in mind.

“We try to build our lives but could be taken away by someone you don’t even know,” she said.

Before the two said goodbye, Schemmel wanted to know about those fun,seemingly innocuous quizzes a lot of us take online.”Am I letting my information get out there when I click on them?” she asked.

Dean says in many cases the answer is yes.

“So on the Internet you are either the product or the consumer. People aren’t setting these up to entertain you. They are getting information and using it for marketing purposes,” he said.

Dean says you should also think twice about logging on to other sites through Facebook. He says as soon as you do that, whatever site you have logged onto now has your profile information as well.

Web Extra: See what non-friends can find out about you on Facebook

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