Tuesday 20 January 2015

Rat In Me Kitchen; Oddities on social networks

Recently, I've had a slew of emails from people that I haven't spoken to in years and It's not because I've become the uber flavour of the month.  All of this is spam-based 'kicking out' from some server somewhere, and it isn't the first time it's happened. In the past, I've also had my facebook account compromised somewhere along the line, which I have mentioned before in another post. Security breaches of this nature aren't an unusual a thing to happen; especially when you look at this item here :-

Londoners give up eldest children in public Wi-Fi security horror show

Apart from the oddly comical tone at the start ( a herod clause?), this highlights an oft quoted 'en garde' for people to be more vigilant when using free wi-fi. I suspect that's how I was nobbled, all those moons ago, and also suspect that the situation is far more serious than the tone in this article. I can back this up with the increased slew of spam on my email accounts, some of which goes straight into the spam basket, but gluts of which is still coming into the inbox directly.

Whenever I'm on a train or any other place where free wi-fi is offered ( cafe's, bars, etc), I have to remind myself to switch the wi-fi setting OFF on my phone, and rely on my mobile network's service provider to deliver the goods. I use an android handset with an anti-virus program for in-useage protection, which doesn't mention having a firewall, but to my knowledge I've not been 'hacked' yet, which is a good thing. In all fairness I'm not sure wether one is needed on a small handheld device with fewer computational 'rooms' for want of a better phrase, to section off. However, just to be on the safe side I don't engage in online banking or even shopping using my phone, and marvel at those who do it on the move. Unless I'm mistaken, I don't think any network provider will cover you for fraudulent activity if it occours, so you'll have to fall back on any financial services provider and their clauses, in the event of something untoward happening. Having personally dealt with oddities of a 'mysterious credit card spend' nature in the past which was related to the internet, I can vouch for them in that respect. Or at least one of them.

Coming back to the issue of social networks, the one thing I have learnt whilst going from being a heavy user to a light user ( it makes me sound like someone quitting a bad habit, but there you go), is that dilligence and prudence is essential. On facebook for example, once it become very apparent to me that my account had been compromised by the virtue of a lot of names and people being part of my friends list that I had no memory whatsoever of adding in, I started to remove them, but then ended up removing hundreds of other people on the list, too. I actually sat down, fired the laptop up, and started to scroll down the list piecemeal. It took a considerable amount of time to do this; the entire process took well over eight hours and two 'sessions', so to speak.  Like a lot of people, I'd just casually accepted a load of friend requests over the years, and as a result of the above, it rapidly dawned on me that :-

a) I didn't know who a lot of these people actually were, because..

b) I'd not had any form of communication, either online or off, with a large number of them since adding them into the friends list. This in some cases was over 4 years prior to my noticing them being there, beyond being another 'name and face' on the list .  Facebook has a facility that allows you see the nature of the friendship, which includes interactivity and ' known since when', etc. A very handy facility to have, in my opinion.

And so..

c) =  a) plus b) which in itself  = why were they still there and/or why were they there in the first place? I guess they did the same thing I had, and just added someone as a connection ( eg:- friend of a friend) , based on a profile picture, and so on.

I saw the funny side and soldiered on, but as already mentioned, I removed hundreds of names from my account; this was more than 80% of people from the friends list in total. Leading on from this, in the last year or so I've also had myself and other friends who use facebook, have 'odd conversations' with others on there, via the messenger app, both before and after it became a seperate entity. Some of these people we know in the physical world, which made it really odd, because they've since denied it happening. As a result I've uninstalled messenger from my handset, as the aforementioned experience raised a red warning light for me. It could just be people creating spam bot style accounts in order to harvest information and use it to create a false identity, which again isn't uncommon from what I've read and heard. I think facebook now have a policy where you're not allowed to use aliases and create doppleganagers, but just like the internet itself, there must be thousands if not MILLIONS of abandoned accounts on there, which may potentially be utilised for unsound means.  In any event, as memorable as all this was, it was all too weird for me to be genuinely scared about it. I still have an account on there, and interact with people on there occasionally.

By comparison, twitter and linked-in seem to have a more cleaner or at least a more linear interactive environment. It must be said that there are a lot of cleverly created and maintained spam-bot style accounts on twitter too ( I've been followed and unfollowed by hundreds of them over the years), as clearly there is some sort of trade off in having a twitter ident; tweeting back links to a page laden with adverts for example,  in the hope that you'll click one of them at some point, and add to the pool of revenue, and and so on. But even so, it's harder to convince others of this over the long term, because of the limitations of the platform. And with linked-in, there is no point in being any sort of 'odd one out' so to speak, because the nature of the platform is geared towards professionals and industrial useage; intending to create a manufactured identity to cause or wreck havoc on there, is about as pointless as a broken can opener.

In effect, all of these and any other social networking sites just require you to remember to be your own 'dilligence officer', in order to manage the content you put up there and to effectively utilise the time you spend on them. Basic common sense is what it's all about, but we can all ( myself included)  sway into a scenario of spending an extra hour 'here and there' at times, because it feels so justifyable to keep checking what's going on. In other words, it just feels good to carouse and browse all the activity, a bit like being a voyeur in a huge common room. The only trouble is, you can lose valuable time spent doing work in the process.

From my own experience, the key issues to manage using social media technologies, are data integrity, security and productivity. In other words :-

 who are you communicating with

what are you sharing out?

how much is it a part of your day?


is that time part of your working hours or recreational/ downtime?

On that note, it's time for a late lunch. Time to switch the ringer off on my phone, for at least 20 minutes.

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