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Protect yourself from scams, hackers on social media - abc27 WHTM

Protect yourself from scams, hackers on social media

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Pennsylvania midstaters use social media every day. But while you're busy "liking" this and "tweeting" that, it's important to remember not everyone out there is your "friend."

Chuck Davis is a computer security expert. He teaches ethical hacking and computer forensics at Harrisburg University. He says many people make it easy for bad guys to steal from them.

"It is stunning how many people still use those very basic simple passwords [such as 12345 or 'password'] which are one of the first things that are guessed," he said.

Your password is your first line of defense against hackers. They have many tools at their disposal to crack your code. Experts say your password should never be a word you can find in the dictionary, and you should never use the same password for different websites.

"If your Facebook account were to be compromised, then the miscreant who gained that information would also have access to your bank account," Davis said.

But scam artists don't need your bank account to rip you off. Crystal Kerns of Carlisle thought her Facebook page was safe. "I started getting phone calls from friends saying, 'Oh you're home, you're not in Spain,'" Kerns said.

Someone pretending to be Kerns wrote all her friends and told them she was stranded overseas and needed money. She was able to stop her friends from being suckered. But once a hacker is in, it's almost impossible to get them out.

"They stole all of my contact list, they stole all of my emails, and all of my file folders," Kerns said.

You also need to be careful on Twitter, especially when it comes to these shortened links. A simple fix is to copy the link and paste it onto a site like www.checkshorturl.com. It will give you the full link and show you a picture of what's on the page.

Davis also says a lot of those Facebook games and quizzes can lead to malicious sites.

And, while there is a lot of good that can come from social media, he says you need to be prepared for the bad.

"That's the moral of the story," Kerns said, "Change your passwords a lot, keep your security up to date and backup everything!"

When it comes to passwords, remember the longer the better. Make sure it has different characters. And don't use "password" or any combination of letters, numbers, and symbols that have that word in it.

You may think it's clever, but for hackers it's not.

For more information on passwords and social media scams, see the links to the right:

Check the destination of a short URL: http://checkshorturl.com

Check the complexity of a password: http://www.passwordmeter.com

How to make passwords stronger, without making them harder to remember: https://www.grc.com/haystack.htm

15 Social Media Scams: http://www.csoonline.com/slideshow/detail/52935/15-social-media-scams?source=csointcpt_ss

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