Young man working on laptop computer in living roomAs anyone who uses Facebook probably already knows quite well, the incredibly popular social media website is always coming up with changes and new policies that affect the way the site appears and is used.

While most of these changes cause Facebook fans to grumble amongst themselves for a week or two before getting used to them and moving on, the site’s new Graph Search feature has actually caused security experts to advise people to boost their security ratings. This heightened need for security on a website that many use to share family photos and amusing stories about their pets has inspired people to rethink how at-risk they may be for other forms of security breaches, including financial fraud or identity theft. In these cases, companies like LifeLock can add an extra layer of protection to help put peoples’ minds at ease.

The Goal of Graph Search

As an article on CSO Online explained that the new Graph Search feature, which was introduced in January and will eventually be available to all users, allows people to type in queries like “hamburger restaurants my relatives like” and get personalized results. While in theory, this service can help people find useful information—while giving Facebook a new way to sell advertising— the article warns that personal information that is posted on Facebook, when used in conjunction with Graph Search, could lead to phishing attacks.

Associated Risks

For example, a cybercriminal who conducts queries with the new Graph Search could potentially learn enough personal information about a user—things like hometown and college information and more—to then write a custom-tailored email to the person that will make it more likely he or she will open it and click on a virus-packed website.

This same type of security risk can also happen with employees of major companies, who may inadvertently post too much information about their place of work and their co-workers. In fact, the article quotes a senior analyst for security and risk management who said companies should now include information about Graph Search in their security awareness campaigns.

Potential Embarrassment

Using the Graph Search feature could also potentially lead to some pretty embarrassing moments for people who do not have their privacy settings high enough on the website. Most Facebook people have “liked” a plethora of places, people and pages. As an article on Business Week’s website explained, these seemingly innocent preferences could lead to a Facebook user’s name popping up in some pretty tawdry Graph Search queries. The article references Tom Scott, a London-based programmer who wrote a blog titled Actual Facebook Graph Searches. His blog proves just how easy it is to search for topics like “married people who like prostitutes” and “current employers of people who like racism.”

In order to avoid any of the potential pitfalls associated with Facebook’s Graph Search, users should review their account and set their privacy settings as high as they can. In addition, people should take the time to give their accounts a thorough review to check on everything they have commented on, liked, played, watched, or published. While going over a Facebook account with a fine-tooth comb may be a bit time consuming, doing so can go a long way in avoiding much more serious problems later on.

Jamie Bates