Tuesday 20 March 2012

Security check

Got me!

I was on Facebook, minding my own business (which I guess is not what you're supposed to do on Facebook), when suddenly there popped up a pop-up asking me to type in a security code. So, without thinking about it, I did. I typed in the collection of numbers and letters that were in difficult-to-read fonts on the screen.

Aaarghhh! That's *exactly* what I tell people *not* to do. Why not, and what should I have done instead?

Why not - because I wasn't expecting it, and I don't see any reason why Facebook would do this. All they were doing, was verifying that I was logged on, and that I was human, not a bot. And I don't really see a reason to do that. Do it at the point when I log on, yes, but why in the middle of me doing something? So, was it Facebook? Or was it one of the many things that Facebook runs and presents you with, like invitations to water someone else's farm, which I suppress as soon as I work out how to. Except maybe not all of them are benevolent (which I guess Farmville is, except I can't help feeling that someone, somewhere must be making money out of it, not that I begrudge them that, but I do like to know in advance how someone else benefits from me, it just makes me feel more comfortable); maybe without realising it, Facebook has allowed one or more malevolent thing to masquerade as harmless fun? Who knows. I don't.

I'm hoping that this was just Facebook being silly. Probably is. But I shouldn't have just done what the computer requested, that's what gets so many people into trouble.

What should I have done instead? I should have aborted my Facebook session, by clicking on the x in the top right hand corner that closes the browser. And then logged on again.

And, while I'm on the subject, I was talking to one of the spammers that I phone up, asking to be taken off her spam list, and she wanted to know why I didn't just click on the "unsubscribe" link. So I explained to her. It's well known, or at least well known to me, that you should *never* click on a link in an email from someone you don't know. Because who knows what it might lead to? It's possible, with some browsers, to install malware on your computer if you just visit a page. Not only possible, it happened to me once (it was an excellent news site called "The Register", which I visit every day) and it happened because one of the adverts that they showed, had something that did exactly that. I then spent half an hour trying to get rid of the thing that had installed itself, before deciding to wipe the cojmputer and reinstall Windows ... and then I decided, no, forget Windows, I'm going Linux from now on (which I've never regretted).

And even when the link says that it leads to some totally harmless site, like, that's just where it's telling you it leads to - it might actually be going somewhere else entirely; you'd have to look at the source to find out, and if you don't know what that means or how to do it, then don't click.

So anyway. You should *never* click on a link in an email from someone you don't know.

Actually, it's worse than that. I get about half a dozen spams per day, which are *apparently* from people I do know. Their email account has been compromised, and is now being used to send spam. So the advice is actually stronger than the above.

You should *never* click on a link in an email from someone you don't know, or from someone you do know, because it might not be them sending the email.

So - I explained all this to the spammer (by the way, they don't like being called spammers, they *really* don't like it, it's as if it's a term of abuse, rather than a technical term describing what she's been doing). And she responded with "No, it's OK, it's a link that unsubscribes you".

I didn't want to explain to her that I'd trust a scumbag spammer (and "scumbag" *is* an insult) about as far as I can spit a fridge, because that would have been impolite, so I tried to explain it to her again, and again she tried to reassure me. So I fell back on "We're not allowed to ...." and she finally accepted that. "More than my job's worth," I continued, enthusiastically, gilding the lily, and "Them's the rules, I can't help it," which we've all heard many a time.

By the way - this was Groupon, who have just been jumped on by the Office of Fair Trading after the Advertising Standards Authority investigated and upheld complaints against Groupon’s ads on 13 different occasions.

And by the way, you should also be a bit wary about clicking on links in blogs.