Facebook & Social Engineering

On Thursday, March 18th, 2010 at 8:00 PM GMT the UK’s Tonight with Trevor McDonald investigated “Facing Up to Facebook”. The Tonight program is a news magazine produced by the UK’s Granada Television for the ITV network since 1999 and covers the full range of human interest led current affairs.

In this episode the program investigated the subject of social engineering and the concerns that surround the social networking site Facebook. Following on from the widely covered so-called “Facebook Murder” much in the news in the UK we have this investigative report into the dangers of online social networking and Facebook in particular.

For me this brings a couple of thoughts to my mind. The first is that this is just another electronic extension to the well-known practice of Social Engineering. The rise in social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. provide a wealth of information to those who want to delve in and find out more about you and has simplified much of the work involved. It was interesting that the representative from Facebook (name escapes me) talked about the 50% who had managed to configure their security settings correctly almost ignoring the other 50% who had not, until he was challenged by the reporter. Have we learned nothing from the past and the history of firewalls where we have a default of “DENY” and the user has to actively engage in what is allowed. Surely if we did this we might have more than 50% of people on Facebook configured better?


If you interested how you can investigate Facebook you can have a look at “Diary of a PDFBook” which was in Issue 1 of DFMag, this looks at a tool to investigate Facebook using a browser. You can also read John Olssen’s article on Forensic Linguistics in Issue 3 of DFMag and how this technique was used in the “Facebook” murder investigation.

Tony Campbell