Today I was confronted with yet another headline like this:

PSA: YOU NEED TO UPDATE YOUR FACEBOOK PRIVACY
SETTINGS AGAIN TO OPT OUT OF NEW TARGETED ADS

and I just shook my head.  Not because I am on Facebook; I am not and I hope never to be again.  But I know that some of you still are.  I wonder if you actually enjoy the six-times-a-year trips into the maze of “privacy” settings, only to discover that they have all somehow managed to reset themselves to the default and oh by the way nothing is where it used to be anymore and… doesn’t it just make you tired?  Facebook sure hopes it does, and they hope you will give up.

On that cheerful note, here is my best recommendation as an information security professional for how to fix your privacy settings.

  1. Get off Facebook.  Yes, I am quite serious.  If you are still on Facebook but you fret about your online privacy, you are no different from a person who whines about how they cannot run a marathon, but has not made the move from the couch to a 5K yet.  You are just un-serious.  If you’re worried about your name being squatted, deactivate your account instead of deleting it and then simply never log in again.  Your high-school reunion committee will get over it.
  2. Uninstall Flash.  Seriously, just get rid of this already.  Even Adobe realizes it will never have all its security issues fixed and is in the process of retiring it.  Not to mention, have you ever heard of the “supercookie” that flushing your browsing data doesn’t remove?  Flash is where those digital vermin live.  Don’t wait.  Enough of the web is already on HTML5 that you will be surprised how little you miss Flash.  It’s time to tear off the Band-Aid.  Here’s a great rundown of how to evict Flash from Chrome, Firefox, Safari, IE and Edge on Windows, Linux and OS X.  So make like a Nike customer and JUST DO IT.
  3. Block Ads.  This one gets a lot of push-back from seemingly fine, upstanding web sites whose business model is built on ad revenue.  The problem is, the flood of nickels and dimes pouring in from those advertisers seems to have blinded them to what was in those ads, which recently have included lots of malware downloads and malicious scripts.  I went into more detail about this not too long ago, and as of now I can tell you that my current favorite ad-blocker is uBlock Origin (not to be confused with ublock.org).

Not too difficult if you can get past the fact that you’ll have to keep up with 1,847 random people (42 of which you have actually met in person!) by other means.  Or not at all. It may not seem like it now, but it could actually make you happier!