Social Media Quizzes Could Give Hackers Access - NBC Southern California
Lunch Break

Lunch Break

Social Media Quizzes Could Give Hackers Access

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Social media allows you to connect with the world, but many seemingly harmless quizzes and games can really be traps laid by social media hackers. Hetty Chang reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015. (Published Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015)

    Social media allows you to connect with the world, but many seemingly harmless quizzes and games can really be traps laid by social media hackers.

    The simple and sometimes silly surveys that pop up on Facebook feeds often ask simple questions that may appear simple enough: What's your favorite color? Where did you grow up? What's your spirit animal? Where did you go to high school?

    Millions of people participate in online quizzes, and then share them with their friends and family.

    "You're like, 'Oh, this is fun. I'm giving you all this information,'" said entrepreneur Chalene Johnson.

    Email is Your First Line of Defense Against Hackers

    [LA] Email is Your First Line of Defense Against Hackers
    Chaylene Johnson says email is the first line of defense against cyber hijackers. Hear her strongest tips for protecting your cyber-self.
    (Published Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015)

    But the answers to those questions are also commonly the answers to security questions that could be used to reset passwords and give criminals access to personal information, including your bank accounts.

    With every answer, cyber pirates can get one step closer to seizing your online identity. Johnson said it happened to her.

    "I had my life, my business and my piece of mind kidnapped -- held hostage," she said.

    Johnson is a world-renowned fitness guru, the founder of Turbo Jam and Turbo Fire workout systems. She is a New York Times best selling author and a business coach. Her virtual identity is her world.

    Then hackers took her world hostage.

    "Tweets coming out as if they were me, but they weren't from me," Johnson said.

    Many of the impostor posts were too vulgar or violent to repeat.

    "Graphic porn ... horrific violence," Johnson recalled.

    The hack got even more terrifying when the cyber criminals went after Johnson's teenage son.

    "The whole family was, like, on high alert," she recalled.

    Then an extortion letter arrived, threatening "we have access to every detail of your life." Whoever was behind the threat demanded money to "make this all go away."

    "It said I had a certain number of hours to deliver on their demand or they would hurt my family," Johnson said.

    They weren't just after Johnson and her family. The hackers were also after Johnson's more than 1 million followers.

    "So they want to hack my dad, they want to hack the lady next door -- because they just need a volume of identities," Johnson said.
    The reality is, anyone can be a target.

    "Just like hostages wind up often getting passed around and sold like goods," said Gene Tsudik, who heads the computer science department at UC Irvine.

    "This is really a complete takeover of one's identity," he said.

    Facebook said the surveys are posted by users, not Facebook. It only removes content if it's reported and violates the company's standards.

    "Don't over share," Tsudik warned.

    There are steps experts recommend to keep your information private.

    Most websites allow users to create their own security questions, instead of answering the preselected choices. For example, instead of your spouse's birthday, create a question about a memorable date only you would know. "Where were you on October 29, eleven years ago?" and be as specific as possible in your answer.

    Keeping your information private is a lesson Johnson said she learned the hard way.

    "This was just, like, crime happening to me and this violation but I didn't know how to stop it," she said.

    Get the latest from NBC4 anywhere, anytime

    • Download the App

      Available for IOS and Android