Here's how to fend off impostors on Facebook

Last Updated: Mon, Sep 10, 2012 04:49 hrs

Close to 53 million users from India have their personal data, photos and contact information associated with their profile pages on Facebook. While online privacy is a huge issue of concern for many internet users, and Facebook, the world's most popular social network, is the main platform over which many agonise about the safety of their personal data.It's not rare for users to come face-to-face with spam activity that goes out from their Facebook accounts to their friends or see their Facebook profile endorsing a brand they have never interacted with on the social networking site. How does this happen? Blame it on the third-party social apps (game apps, or Thought sharing apps, location-based apps, etc) linked to your Facebook that can essentially track your life on the internet. Industry data suggest one in five apps even collect your friends' data.

But securing your information on Facebook isn't as difficult as you might think.

Securing data from third-party apps
Do you recall how many times you have granted permission to an app to access your personal information on Facebook? Also, do you know how to access permissions' page on your Facebook to revoke unwanted permissions? If your answer to those questions is 'no', then perhaps you should take advantage of a new service offered by allows to quickly check all your permissions across the most popular social sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, etc). You do not need to submit any personal information or log-in details to MyPermissions, simply click on the appropriate icon and you will be taken to that site's permissions page where you can then review a list of permissions already granted and remove any apps or websites you don't recognise or no longer require. Users must treat all permissions to third-party apps as risky since the personal information thus provided can be utilised for identity theft as well as a plethora of other roguery.

One could also enlist help from Secure.Me's (http:// App Adviser that safeguards Facebook users from social apps that over-collect personal data, spam users' friends network and pose security risks. Having analysed app activities of 50 million Facebook users and more than 500,000 apps, Secure.Me has built an exhaustive App Security Network of its own. With this tool, users can see what data their social games and apps retrieve, actions they perform and even identifies apps that contain viruses and malware. One can also learn how many of smartphone apps are circulating personal Facebook data without user's consent.

Privacyscore ( for Facebook is another Facebook app that allows users to type in the name of a specific app and get a report about whether or not it is likely to harm their device.

Get free security apps for your FB
Facebook has teamed up with a number of security firms to offer its 900 million users malware protection. The AV Marketplace on Facebook enables people to download six-month licences for full versions of anti-virus software at no charge from Microsoft, McAfee, TrendMicro, Sophos, or Symantec. Besides, the company claims that it continuously monitors the site for suspicious content and will notify users if it notices unusual activity from their computers.

Facebook's disclosure that it found 14 million user accounts it considers "undesirable" - meaning they are likely spewing spam or other malicious links and content - highlights the need to secure personal data. Here are some security applications that you can add to your Facebook account to scan links, images and videos posted, messages and news feeds to make online social interactions safer. Apps like BitDefender SafeGo, Norton SafeWeb and Defensio by Websense are one-click solutions for users to protect their Facebook profiles.

Defensio provides security and controls to manage what type of content can be posted to personal or commercial Facebook walls. The app can send user an alert email if spam or a malicious link is detected in the account. The Norton Safe Web for Facebook app also scans the news feeds and identifies URLs containing security risks such as phishing sites, malicious downloads and links to unsafe external sites. Both applications are available for free and are accessible via the Facebook apps store.

Tweak the FB privacy settings
There are several steps that users can take that can prevent misuse of their data and keep them safe from rogue apps.

It is recommended that users atleast be aware of what default privacy settings they have for the facebook profile. To check and edit the settings, go to tab labeled as 'Account' at the top right corner of your Facebook page and click 'Privacy Settings.'

For starters, users can enable device detection from Account Settings. Click on Security and enable the feature that says "When a new mobile or computer logs into this account." Check on 'Send me an email' option. This way, if an unrecognised device is used to access your account, user would be alerted on the registered email id.

Also, always keep a check on the apps allowed to access to Facebook. User can remove unwanted apps from Facebook by clicking on Privacy Settings, and then selecting Apps option from where required settings can be edited.

More from Sify: