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Hide your age on Facebook to increase your security

facebookFacebook, the world’s largest social network, constantly asks users to share more and more information – but how much is too much? Can over-sharing on social media cause big problems from a security point of view? We looked at how sharing one simple piece of information on your profile – your date of birth – could cause big security problems.

 

The ugly: mass exploits already happening

There may be a social faux pas about sharing a lady’s age, but the real issue surrounding sharing your date of birth on Facebook is one of computer security.

The reason is that many other websites use your date of birth as one of their identifying security features. Therefore if someone wanted to gain access to your account, having your date of birth could dramatically help.

A good example of this happened earlier this year to one of the world’s biggest computer companies: Apple. A security oversight in the company’s process for finding your iTunes account’s lost password meant that all a criminal needed to access your account was your date of birth.

Specifically, if a criminal knew your email address and date of birth, they could enter this information in an online form and reset your password to one of their choosing. Scary.

Apple remedied the error (discussed in more detail here: http://www.theverge.com/2013/3/22/4136242/major-security-hole-allows-apple-id-passwords-reset-with-email-date-of-birth), but it’s clearly a common problem amongst technology companies if even Apple could fall for it.

The bad: your data may already be shared

Sadly, for many people, Facebook will already be sharing your date of birth information to anyone who searches for your profile.

Have a quick look now – type a random name into Facebook’s search box, open their profile and click the “About” box. Can you see their birthday, or even their full date of birth? The same could be happening to you.

The good: how to hide your age

The good news is Facebook makes it really easy to hide this information from prying eyes. Whether you’re genuinely concerned about your online security – or just want to appear a few years younger – changing the visibility of this information takes around five seconds.

Simply load up your About page (accessible from your profile screen), scroll down to “Basic Information” and choose “Edit”.

You can then click the small icon to the right of the “Birthday” information, and change this to either “Friends” if you just want your friends to see the information, or “Only me” if you’d rather no-one at all saw it. Perfect.

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