Gordon Smith

Face(book) the facts: Paranoia-proofing the online you

Approx Reading Time-11Yes, the online world is the fountain of knowledge, but it is also a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Here’s how to keep your virtue.




Passwords are important. Some would say that passwords are the key to accessing all of your most secret, most valuable information. The keyword, in fact.

Indeed, most people would say that, because that is the definition of a password.

Note the words “secret” and, more importantly, “most valuable information”, and how that itty-bitty password is all that keeps that secret information a secret.

It is with no exaggeration that I tell you that a strong, complex password is an absolute essential, no matter what service it is you’re using.

I would also tell you that your password should be radically different for every single website you access, but I would be a dirty hypocrite if I said that.

You should do that, though.

Because getting a hold of someone’s password in this modern world can mean unbridled access to their social media, their finances, their medical records, their seedy underbelly of web surfing.

While you may not be too concerned about your social media accounts being busted wide open – after all, how much damage can someone writing a few unflattering status updates cause? – when your Facebook password is just a digit away from your banking password, things start to take a far more serious tone.

But if, like me, you lack the mental capacity needed to remember a collection of password-y misfits, and opt for the easy option of “one password for everything, maybe with a different number, or a capital letter or something, who knows really, this is my password, I make the rules”, you’re not alone.

You’re also not short on examples for why you should change your ways, or suffer a thousand hacks.

Mr Facebook himself – also known by his “real name”, Mark Zuckerburg – has had his Twitter and Pinterest accounts hacked, by a Saudi Arabian group known as OurMine.

In case you thought they were bluffing, they even posted a message from his Twitter account, telling the world they found his password in a leaked LinkedIn password dump.

To further shame the social media magnate, his half-hearted attempt at a password was broadcast for all the world to see in the now deleted tweet.

The password in question? “dadada”. No capitals, no numbers, no symbols, just straight up the same syllable three times over.

Granted, you’re probably feeling pretty good about your keyword crafting ways by comparison to Mr Zuckerburg’s creation, but still, it’s as good a reminder as any to make your password as cryptic as the Rosetta Stone, or else suffer the consequences.

Will reading this make any change to how you use social media? Almost definitely not. In fact, I can hear my brain howling at the hypocrisy… typing this on the very device I use to horde birthday messages and check in to whatever the latest subpar blockbuster is.

Now, with the word “password” almost definitely having lost all meaning after having been read for the third dozen time, let’s look at some other social media faux pas, and how to delay the Internet inevitably ruining your life.

Remember Kate’s party? The small, intimate gathering that attracted a meagre 60,000 attendees?

Kate made two fatal errors: the first, making a public event for what was almost definitely meant to be a private affair.

The second, and far more dangerous? She posted her address.

It’s not just a problem for if you’re hosting events, either.

If you’re the type of person – like I am – who likes to tell the world exactly where, when, and how you’re going away, or what shiny new piece of tech you’ve picked up, you are telling the world exactly where and when to break into your humble home.

You also have no doubt used your address as a way of verifying your identity when you’ve called up the faceless men at the bank, or after surviving the hell that is Centrelink’s hold music.

Ergo: your address is, in essence, your identity, and identity theft is never fun.

But if you think just simply not outright posting your address is enough to ward off the net nasties, you’re in for a surprise.

Your phone number can be just as useful in taking over your existence.

The advent of more advanced search engines means that it is all too easy to search someone’s phone number, and find all the extremely personal details attached.

Plus, there’s the whole “people you don’t know now know exactly how to contact you at all hours of the day” factor.

While we’re at it, you probably shouldn’t check in to places while you’re exploring the real world, because you are in the process quite literally inviting people to find you.

Last, but maybe not least, your birthday is also mighty valuable information.

Yes, the removal of birthdays from Facebook means that you actually will need to remember when exactly your friends were born – something I am extremely guilty of – and won’t be able to default to the same cheesy celebratory post. But it also means you are removing potentially one of the most common forms of security questions, and providing yet another barrier to those dastardly identity thieves.

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Will reading any of this make any change to how you use your social media? Almost definitely not.

In fact, I can hear my brain howling in frustration at the hypocrisy being unleashed by my fingertips, typing this on the very same device I use to horde birthday messages and check in to whatever the latest subpar blockbuster is.

But, regardless, it is incumbent on us as social media users – and, more importantly, as people who value any kind of security – to be mindful of how it is we conduct ourselves online.

No-one is saying you need to scrap every piece of technology and live in the safety and seclusion of a cave (except maybe Pete Evans), but what we are saying is that if things go wrong, and the proverbial hits the fan, you can’t just cry foul without at least trying to improve your online safety.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to draw up a list of my current passwords, think about how I can make them more secure, then get irrationally frustrated by the whole process and make no actual changes. I hope you’ll do the same.



Gordon Smith

Journalist by day, cunning linguist by night. A passion for politics, hypnotically involved in human rights. An Australian born with a Japanese tongue, hoping to hold the big wigs in government to account.