Who’s your friend now?

Social bots? Automatic friends? They sound rather innocuous, sort of just ignore them kinds of things. However, researchers have created software robot, “bots”, that are savvy enough to try and become your “friends” across your social networks. They work by acting rather like a person, albeit a casual sounding friend. Yes, there is a human at the controls as a master but these bots do most of the work themselves.

After the initial accounts are automatically made, these “people” friend each other and then start trying to friend real people who have mutual friends, while un-friending their first bot friends. As they extend, friending friends of friends, humans at that point, they are often gaining access to private data, data that real humans think they have limited to just friends. And studies show many of us don’t mind accepting friends.

On another front, remember those kids in Pennsylvania with school provided computers that had monitoring software installed and it turned out that school officials were taking pictures of what they were doing in their homes? It should not come as a surprise that such software can get installed on your own computers as part of a virus/trojan infection, to both capture what your computer sees or hears of you in your bedroom and to share it out on the web. Whether the school district should or shouldn’t have monitored students while off campus, I don’t want to address. However, students had noticed the green camera light occasionally flickering and had been told that it was just a hardware glitch. Yet, you shouldn’t count on that light coming on when your camera is activated, it can be easily disabled. Programmers can already use software switches to disable that green light. At least you can always fold a piece of card stock to slip over that camera eye.

If you are going to use the web, email, social sites, etc., you need to develop those same subconscious skills you have for shady people for the Internet. Those skills will come, just don’t expect them to be there the first time you turn on your computer, tablet, or phone.

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