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Security & privacy

Don’t get fooled by these Facebook hoaxes

Are you still using Facebook these days? Despite the negative buzz surrounding the world’s biggest social network, it’s user base continues to remain strong – even as the younger crowd flees in droves towards TikTok’s greener pastures.

And who can blame them, really? Between Facebook’s privacy issues and TikTok’s promise of instant virality, it makes sense why so many people are trying out the fun new platform. Tap or click here to see our beginner’s guide to TikTok.

There’s also one more issue with Facebook that’s putting a bad taste in many users’ mouths: How easy it is for hoaxes to spread on the platform. And now, security researchers are warning about several viral posts that are misinforming users. These posts aren’t inherently harmful, but they may give you a false sense of security when you need it the least.

What’s wrong on Facebook now?

According to security researchers at Sophos, there has been an uptick in seemingly “harmless” viral text posts on Facebook that may not bode well for users in the long term.

The researchers argue that although these posts don’t directly harm you, they can misinform you as to how the platform actually works, and potentially give you a false sense of security about your profile. This is especially dangerous with phishing and cyberattacks on the rise. Tap or click here to see two of the latest phishing campaigns detected.

The most popular of these hoax posts tend to come in three common forms:

1. Warnings to watch out for a dangerous risk – Most of the time, the so-called “risk” is non-existent or simply a misunderstanding of how Facebook actually works.

2. Instructions to copy and share specific text under threat of hackers, free speech and Facebook limitations – These are essentially chain-letters with a fresh coat of paint.

3. Advice on how to give yourself a cybersecurity checkup – The advice is almost always useless and has nothing to do with cybersecurity at all, let alone on Facebook. In the example above, the colored words only indicate you’ve activated specific animations in your post. The viral hoax (not pictured) says typing these words shows your “security is working.”

This, of course, is false.

This is one of the many reasons that using social media of any kind requires a healthy dose of skepticism. Fake and sensational stories, it seems, are much easier to spread en-masse than the truth.

How can I avoid getting tricked by hoaxes like this?

Avoiding hoaxes isn’t as difficult as it might seem at first. For starters, any post that urges you to share with your friends can be regarded with some skepticism at first. Research the claims for yourself on reputable websites, and avoid navigating to corners of the internet you’re unfamiliar with.

In fact, you might just be better off not taking social media posts without verified sources seriously in the first place. It’s not as if Facebook is a known bastion of truth, anyway. Tap or click here to see how to spot fake Facebook users.

You might be thinking: Why the fuss over these hoaxes if they’re harmless, anyway? Well, for starters, it’s never good to let bad information spread unchecked. Allowing it to fester can prime people to receiving even more misinformation, and can potentially make people complacent when real security threats are on the rise.

As an example, if you take scenario number three from above and successfully manage to color the text in your post, you might assume your profile security is in working order based on the hoax. This might make you less cautious when opening emails or accepting sketchy friend requests.

In the end, it’s never worth getting too comfortable with your security on the web. You might think you have things figured out now, but all it takes is for hackers to discover a new vulnerability or develop a new kind of malware to wreak devastation on social media users.

If you keep an attitude of caution in general, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to truly stay safe online.

Tap or click here to see our guide to creating stronger passwords for your favorite online accounts.

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