Sunday, December 27, 2009

Hijacked Facebook accounts pose threat of ID theft

Most maddening, says Selena Schmidt: Facebook officials helped the hacker, and not her.

A cyber criminal took over her Facebook account during the summer and, posing as Schmidt, began instant-messaging a lie to her friends.

"He was telling them that I'd gotten mugged in London and had lost everything," said Schmidt, 40, of the North Side, a project director at a nonprofit agency. "He was asking my friends to wire the cost of the ticket, $600, and I'd pay them back when I got home."

As people increasingly rely on online social media sites to connect with friends and family -- or even to do their jobs -- the need to protect the security of sites is crucial. Some say the companies that run the sites need to step up. Others say each individual ultimately bears the responsibility to safeguard sensitive information.

Schmidt said Facebook officials did not respond for hours to her attempts to alert them about what was happening. Instead, Facebook shut down some of her friends "for spamming" as they tried to warn others about the hacker.

When it was over, Schmidt e-mailed Facebook a list of ways company officials could have handled the situation better.

"All I got was standard form feedback that said, 'Thank you for your input,' " Schmidt said.

Facebook officials do not comment on individual user accounts, said Simon Axten, a Facebook spokesman, in an e-mail.

"Only a very small fraction of our total user base has ever experienced a security issue on Facebook," Axten said. "Because of the systems we've built to help protect our users, this percentage hasn't increased even as the number of people using Facebook has more than doubled over the last year." pittsburghlive

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