Dateline: Washington Post; October 6, 2011I went to YouTube to find a video clip to make light of this situation and was inundated with hundreds of videos promising to show me how to hack my friends email, Facebook and other accounts.
An Associated Press-MTV poll finds 3 in 10 teens and young adults have had people get into their Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or other Internet accounts and either impersonate or spy on them. That’s nearly double the level seen in 2009.
The poll found solid majorities saying they knew who was behind it . . . . . . [Often] It’s meant to be funny . . . . . . . . . But sometimes the hacking can be malicious. (Link to full article)
According to the article much of the "hacking" reported was done by friends who take over a computer that has been left unattended or who have "stolen" an obvious or previously shared password. Even the "funny" intrusions can often be interpreted as bullying “It’s supposed to be obvious that this is something I would never say,” and these are often things that embarrass or bother the owner of the hijacked account.
Professional hacking of social networks appears, based upon this study, to be the least of our worries. It is our "friends" who are out to get us!
With tools and techniques available to teach interested "friends" how to hack our accounts, it is these "friends" we need to guard against. I have not taken the time to research these tools but assume the best guard is, as the professionals warn us, changing passwords frequently and using combinations of letters, numbers and even characters.
What about the "friends" who take over the computer we left logged in or who borrow our laptops or smart phones that save passwords to automatically log in to all of our favorite sites? What about these loyal friends who look over our shoulders (figuratively speaking) to read our most private correspondence or who, "being funny," send email or post to Facebook things that we wouldn't ever do or if we did would never share?
I love technology! I love what it can do for us, and I love sharing the best it has to offer with students, teachers and friends. I offer and suggest. I do not preach (or at least try not to). Those of us who live in glass houses have no right to preach. On this point though, I see an urgent need to caution all around me to be cautious about passwords and about open accounts.
We cannot count upon our friends to have our backs on this one! It is up to each individual to protect their online privacy as much, perhaps more, than we work to protect our real, physical privacy.
This will not prevent purposeful, malicious bullying, but it will prevent us from feeling the barbs of a "friend's," supposedly "funny" jabs. As we encourage our students to develop an ever increasing online presence with blogs, discussion boards and an increasing volume of Web based application and those same students develop their own social and in some cases professional and financial networks outside of school, it is imperative that we encourage the safest possible behaviors.
Check this article about Google Apps for Education and community fears. What the Internet hath giveth, thy community (or district) can take away if fears outweigh perceived benefit.