Recently my Facebook account was attacked by a spammer and I became more interested in Facebook security. I go a lot of advice, much of it based on emotion and fear, so I did my research.
First of all Facebook is safer than general web surfing until you click on some link and get transferred out of Facebook to your favorite browser. There are two main risks within Facebook. The bad guys might spam your account, or they might steal your friends list.
I will tell you how to protect yourself and your friends in both these cases, but first here is some of the advice I received…
PROTECT YOUR FRIENDS LIST
The first important point is what caused my initial confusion. I found someone with “no friends,” and that set off red flags for me and pretty much everyone else. In retrospect, this was the completely the wrong reaction. If you want to protect your friends list from being farmed by scammers and spammers (something I now do and recommend), Facebook allows you to prevent anyone from seeing this list. [Instructions below.]
Just as you would publicly release your contacts list, it is good practice to protect your friends list on Facebook. The one risk in doing this is that ignorant people (like I was) might think you have no friends and avoid you. Small risk.
WHAT KIND OF FACEBOOK USER ARE YOU?
Let’s divide FB users into two groups: family and public. The family users have a limited number of friends and only accept new friends when someone new enters their intimate circle. FB provides many ways to protect these accounts and these features are widely publicized and promoted by Facebook and others. I will say nothing more about these users, except I have a separate family account for baby pictures, anniversaries, etc.
Now about the public users: the public users typically post to everybody. They are the ones with a more challenging situation and a need for advice. This remainder of this post is for them.
Facebook spam is when someone posts an phishing or other annoying message on your Facebook account. If it is a friend, you can contact them or unfriend them. If it is not a friend, you can block them.
However, as I have learned the hard way, spam attacks can be quite annoying. I spent a few days deleting spam comments from every one of my posts from the beginning of the attack until I finally blocked this user.
Generally Facebook allows anyone to comments on all your public posts. However, there is something you can do for protection without completely shutting down the discussion. [Instructions below.]
If you have your contact list protected [recommended], the risk to you and your friends is minimal, but not zero. For this reason you might want Facebook’s assistance in screening those who send you friend requests. Your can restrict friend requests to be only from friends of friends [Instructions below.] You can also block all friend requests.
However, if you want to connect with a wide variety of people, you might let Facebook send you all friend requests, and you can check their page to see if you want to accept their request. Just remember not to make my mistake: If they do not display any friends, they are being careful to protect their own privacy and that or their friends … of it could be some other nefarious reason – use your judgement.
INSTRUCTIONS TO PROTECT FRIENDS LIST
Caveat: I couldn’t do this on my phone. The process is to (1) open your friends, (2) click the little pencil to edit, and (3) set “Who can see your friend list?” to only me. The other options for “who can see” like everybody or friends are not recommended. Your friend list is like the contacts on your phone, private.
Remember that when someone goes to looks examine your friends, they will see something like this. Also remember when you see this on someone’s account, they are protecting your information by not letting others see their contacts/friends.
INSTRUCTIONS TO LIMIT SPAM
The most common spammer opportunity on Facebook is to post spam comments on your posts. This is because “Anyone who can see a post can like or comment on it.” However if you allow everybody to follow you, you can limit this.
You limit comments by (1) going to settings, (2) clicking followers, (3) setting “who can follow” to everybody, and finally (4) setting comments on public posts to friends of friends or something more restrictive. This does not completely stop comment spam, but it can help.
INSTRUCTIONS TO HAVE FACEBOOK SCREEN YOUR FRIEND REQUESTS
The first step to screen friend requests is to click settings while viewing your friends.
The default setting is everyone can send you friend requests.
You can set it to friends of friends to have Facebook screen the requests you receive.
Facebook is a way for all of us to meet and interact with others who have different ideas and circumstances. Through Facebook I now have friends that I would have never met in any other way. I think this makes the world more friendly for all of us. I hope this helps you feel more comfortable as you venture out.