We’ve all seen those cute Facebook questions pop up on our timeline. They seem innocent enough. The posts ask about engaging topics like, “What food would you never eat?” and “What was the first concert you went to?” You’ve probably commented on some and waited to see whether any of your friends would chime in, too. Unfortunately, adding your response may make you susceptible to security breaches and identity theft.
If you’re having a hard time understanding how silly Facebook questions can be dangerous, that’s because hackers want them to appear harmless. The quizzes are posted from public accounts, some of which even look like they belong to a small radio station. This makes them seem legitimate and makes many of us believe that our questions will be featured on the radio. In addition, the questions seem friendly and welcoming because they have little to do with world issues or politics. They offer a break from the endless cycle of bad news.
To help shatter the idea that these questions pose no threat, we asked our very own Nick Perfetto, a cybersecurity specialist for Bauer Media, for his take.
“Online quizzes seem like a bit of harmless fun but they often ask the same questions that are used for security challenges for online accounts,” Perfetto explains. “‘What’s your pet’s name?’ ‘Who was your 3rd grade teacher?’ ‘What street did you grow up on?’ While these questions can be used to figure out ‘which Disney Princess you are,’ they can also be used to help a hacker gain access to one, or more, of your online accounts.”
The problem doesn’t end there. Actor and writer Jim Beaver, who is also passionate about cybersecurity, posted about the issue on Facebook and explained that commenting on one post makes it worse for everyone.
“Because of the way Facebook’s algorithm is set up, your actual Facebook friends can see the post you responded to and your answer to the little question,” Beaver wrote. “If they respond to your comment, or like your comment, or answer the question themselves, they also begin to see more little quiz questions from this Facebook poster and more similar Facebook accounts with other little questions.”
Beaver notes that some of the questions are truly harmless. However, he explains, “The more you answer, the more you see, and sooner or later you slip up and answer one or more that help a data miner begin putting together pieces of information that help them steal your identity and get into your bank accounts.”
Those quizzes that take you to a separate website aren’t safe, either. CBC News notes that fun personality quizzes, like “Which Dr. Seuss Character Are You?” aren’t free to take because big data companies will sell your personal data to advertisers or even cybercriminals on the dark web.
So, be extremely cautious about answering those Facebook questions and quizzes! Scrutinize questions that pop up and warn your friends as much as you can. You could be saving yourself and others from identity theft and scams.