Staying safe online according to an IT expert

One of my favourite people, Glen Harman, wrote an article for us in response to my Facebook hacking drama a few months ago.  Glen is a “young whippersnapper”’ young enough to be my son. He is also my go-to person for all things computer, an IT whiz with 20 years experience and a passion for ‘Online’ security.

While the Internet has fast become a convenient tool for everyone to pay their bills or do their banking without leaving our lounge room, it has also brought confidence men, criminals and gangsters directly into our home. Like the real world, security and vigilance is key to surviving in this electronic world.

This week my dear friend Karen sent me a friend request on Facebook. Ordinarily I would have accepted gladly, however a few things didn’t add up. Karen and I had already been friends on Facebook for many years. I knew she was engaged with jury duty and wouldn’t have been at a computer at all, and finally, this ‘faux friend’ also had less of a grasp of the English language than the average 4 year old.

This was the second time that my friend has been targeted by these ‘online scammers’.

The scam is fairly simple. They create a fake profile using your public photo and personal details and send friend requests to your ‘real’ friends. They then send your friends messages asking for money for some reason or another (Such as being stuck overseas and not being able to get back home), and rely that your friends are both gullible and don’t read the fact that you are actually stuck in jury duty in Brisbane, not flying around Europe stuck in Prague.

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So how can you stop yourself being a target of these scammers?

Most social networking tools such as Facebook have security settings where you can display information to either just your friends, or the entire Internet. Locking these down so information like your date of birth, hometown, or your other ‘real’ friends can only be seen by your friends will stop these people finding your information freely on the Internet.

You should also make sure that people you add on these social networks are people you know and trust. When you add people to your social network, you are giving them a key to your information. You don’t know whether they are giving this to other people.

If you suspect a friend may not be what they seem, try using another form of communication such as the phone to speak directly to the person and find out if they have created a new profile. While there may be reasons you need to create a new Facebook profile (Like forgetting your passwords for example), these are fairly rare.

Remember that it’s a wild world out there, even when it’s staring at you on a computer screen. Take care, and keep your guard up.

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By Glen Harman

Thanks Glen and yes, I went in and changed all my security settings to Friends only.


Have you ever had an online security issue? How did you handle it?