Picture: REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado/Files (CHILE)

Durban - Facebook accounts are increasingly targeted by hackers and scammers. It’s not uncommon for someone to break into an account and use it to send spam or scams targeting a person’s Facebook friends and family. A lot of apps and websites now let you sign in using your Facebook account, so if it’s compromised then those services can be too.

Sometimes, the damage to a compromised account is limited and nothing more than the account password is changed, but often it’s a lot worse than that. Recently, for example, a friend lost her account completely after a hacker cracked her password and changed the email address and phone number associated with the account.

Facebook the company is a huge, automated machine - don’t think that you can simply call them, provide ID and explain what has happened. Believe me, I’ve tried, and received nothing more than a recorded message referring me to Facebook’s online help at www.facebook.com/hacked. If your circumstances don’t match the scenarios described there, you’re out of options.

Security: Facebook provides a variety of tools such as two-factor authentication to protect your account even if someone does discover your password, and recovery options that can help you get back into your account if you’ve forgotten your login details or your account is compromised.

This week and next, I’ll cover the security settings you need to edit and personalise. For most of these, you’ll want to access the settings area of your Facebook profile. To do this, when signed in to Facebook using a web browser, click the little arrow pointing downwards at the top right corner of the window, then click Settings. Next, click “Security and login”. Some of these settings can also be accessed in the Facebook mobile app. Click the three lines in the lower right corner, then scroll down to “Settings & Privacy”.

Password: Never use the same email address and password for multiple online accounts and don’t use basic or common passwords. Passwords like “Oliver66” and “qwerty” are easily cracked by hacking tools. If you can’t think of a strong password, try a memorable phrase - for example the first letters of the sentence “Since 1994 I play Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen in my car!” could become a password like “S1994IpBRbQimc!”.

Two-factor Authentication: When you turn this on, you’ll need more than just a password to sign into your Facebook account. You’ll still enter your account password, but will then be prompted to enter a second, one-off code sent to your phone via SMS or an authenticator app.

The set-up is easy and you can choose trusted computers and devices that can remain signed in, while any new or unrecognised devices will prompt for the second code. Access the security and login part of Facebook settings as described above, then follow the steps to add a phone to Facebook or configure an authenticator app.

The Mercury