Social Media Scams: Memes and Quizzes
We have all pondered what type of potato we are, so it’s no surprise that quizzes like this are popular on social media. They’re fun to take and often produce hilarious results. But what if we told you there is actually a malicious purpose
to these presumably harmless activities?
When you analyze the quiz questions that help you determine what type of potato you are or which character you are on your favorite tv show, the intent becomes quite clear. Let’s take a look at a few common ones:
- What was your first car?
- What was the street you grew up on?
- What was your high school mascot?
- What was your first job?
- What city were you were born?
- What was your first pet’s name?
- What was your mother’s maiden name?
- What was your childhood best friend’s name?
- What is your favorite food/movie/TV show?
Now, think about the last time you setup a new online account for a credit card or to do your banking. The list above shows common security questions you can set in your profile to help confirm your identity each time you log in. Once shared publicly,
this information can be used by a hacker to gain access to your accounts. Now that you see them in this context it may seem obvious, but it’s not top of mind when you’re scrolling through social media.
And unfortunately, hackers are getting more sophisticated. Have you ever seen a meme that says “Rap Name Generator”? It shows a list of random prefixes next to each month of the year and a list of days next to a random word. If you put the
prefix associated with your birth month together with the word next to your birthdate, that generates your rapper name. Most of the time, these are hilarious, so you’re excited to post your results, but by posting your rapper name “Doctor
Nachoz” you are actually sharing your birthday and month.
Another version simply provides instructions such as this: “Your middle name plus the street you grew up on is your undercover cop name”. Sure, Frank Maple is a great alias but now you have posted your middle name and the street you grew up
on, both potential security questions. A more subtle approach to this version might say “Your street name is Lil’ plus the color of your shirt and the last thing you ate”. Again, “Lil Blue Burrito” is sure to make everyone
laugh, but now you have posted what could possibly be your favorite color and favorite food. Both could factor into possible password combinations or security questions.
Facial recognition has become a new way to secure your phone or access mobile apps. This has made it harder for cyber criminals to access your accounts, however, not impossible. Let’s go back to more pop quiz examples. Have you ever seen the quiz:
“Which celebrity do I look like?” By uploading or taking a selfie, the website will analyze your photo and determine your celebrity look alike. Not happy with the first outcome? Do it again, this time at a different angle. Now you are
feeding the quiz creators more information to potentially impersonate your facial recognition properties. It may seem like a long shot that someone will steal your phone but they don’t have to. By you clicking a malicious link in what appears
to be a legitimate email or text, cyber criminals can gain access to your phone remotely.
It is ok to have fun on the internet but be careful! Pause and think about why you are being asked the questions you are being asked. Be diligent. A quick laugh isn’t worth a lifetime of trying to regain your identity.