Your Facebook profile = Your biggest security loophole

On your facebook, can you tell me:

– When is your birthday?
– What’s your hometown?
– Name of your high school?
– Name of your elementary school?
– What are your favorite books?
– Favorite actors and actresses?
– Favorite TV show?
– Post pictures of your pets, and tag the photos with their name?
– Links to your family member’s facebook pages?
– Or, their names?
– Maybe you can tag your parents & their names on your photos?
– Maybe post pics of your car, and show off?

OK, so I admit the last 2 are a stretch – but have you seen the default security questions asked for your email, bank account, retirement accounts, etc?

With just a few key pieces of personal info – birthday, address, SS# – many of which are floating around in electronic and paper forms… (e.g. was the SS number REALLY necessary for the doctor’s office, hm?) – a “Black Hat” / cyber criminal can very easily get at & steal your ID?

Actual, real examples that I’ve personally seen from financial institutions to reset passwords, grant access, and the like include:

– What’s the day and month of your birthday?
– What town did you grew up in?
– Where did you go to grade or high school?
Hint: Even if you didn’t list the schools – the town name can be used as a cross-reference to find out easily!
– What’s your mother’s maiden name?
– What was the first make and model of your car?
– What’s the last name of your favorite actor?
– What’s your favorite TV show?
– What’s your favorite pet’s name?

You may be thinking: “…but Steve – set the info to private! I should be safe, right?”

OK – let’s take a step back. Look at your friends list. I assume there are a few hundred, if not thousands listed. How do you really know if that friend request that you got from “a friend from High School” was REALLY from your friend in High School? How do you know that someone didn’t go through the effort of creating a “fake profile” to send you a friend request, just to gain access to your personal details / likely the answers to your security questions?

Do you know who you're really "Facebook friends" with?

Granted – the above scenario may seem far stretched, and I may sound paranoid – but let’s weigh the pluses and minuses here.  Humor me and answer the following:

– What do you REALLY get out of sharing all of the above info with the world?

– What can potentially go wrong if an ID thief gets their hands on this info?   How long will it take to fix?

It’s obvious that posting personal details is really of minimal benefit (I have to admit, I do/did enjoy than the wall of ‘Happy Birthdays” that are posted on the wall annually…)  The potential cost, hassle, and burden caused by identity theft from this huge gap / security loophole here is too great. Too many “security questions” about seemingly private things are in fact – publicly available!

To date, I’m still puzzled why there’s been no “forwarded campaign” that’s pointed out the shocking similarities between the most common security questions used by many websites to prove identity, versus the profile questions posed by Facebook.

Conversely – I see alot of these hoax posts about “post this message to preserve your privacy rights on facebook.”   You want to REALLY protect your rights?  Clear out unnecessary info from your profile, tell your friends why, and PASS IT ON! 

FB Privacy Hoax

Let’s be frank here – I’m no security expert, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that any truly complete FB profile is just ripe for the picking for ID thieves.  Why hasn’t this received more exposure?

Please – for your identity’s sake – delete all that extra crap off your facebook profile.  It can cause alot of potential problems, with really minimal benefit.

Or, hey – if it’s already posted / out in the open, then maybe it’s time to create an alternate identity…
– With a birthday of 1/1/75
– “none” for parents because I’m adopted
– A graduate from “The School of Hard Knocks”
– A fan of “50 Shades of Grey,” “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid,” and Garth Brook’s country music
– A proud owner of 4 turtles named Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo, Rahpael, plus my favorite mouse called Splinter
– ..and I’ll call myself… “Rusty Shackleford.”

Dale: "Did someone say Rusty Shackleford?"

– Rusty M. Shackleford


TurboTax vs Tax Cut : How I almost switched for my 2014 filings

Time flies in the blink of an eye, and I always like to get a running start on things like taxes well before hand.

I’ve always used TurboTax, and have been buying their software for the last several years.  However, Intuit made some very questionable changes this year, on their TurboTax feature set that ruffled alot of feathers – eliminating suport for Schedule C and Schedule E on their “Deluxe” software ($55 MSRP), forcing buyers to get Premium ($80 MSRP), for these features.

For those unfamiliar with tax filings, Schedules C and E handle stocks/investments & real estate rentals, respectively.  These are (2) biggies / requirements for me, which I can’t live without.

With some advice from Amazon reviews and Slickdeals, I looked into getting H&R Block’s TaxCut software instead – at $45 & $65 MSRP for their Deluxe & Premium software, respectively.  Supposedly, for both levels, TaxCut provides pretty much the same feature set.  Alot of the reviews also claimed that the transition from TurboTax to TaxCut is seamless, so it seemed that it’s worth trying.  I pulled the trigger a couple of days after the New Year, and my software was on its way!

I got the software a couple of days back, and unfortunately, it’s a no go in my case.

As some of you know, I help a handful of close friends and family members with filing their tax returns every year, providing a turnkey service for free.  Thus, this requires that I file multiple returns.

Unfortunately, with TaxCut, the software ships with a sheet / coupon code that’s allows up to a maximum of 5 federal tax E-Files… Of course, there was no mention of this anywhere in the product descriptions (at least that I saw).  I had to box it up and return, as I didn’t see a point in installing / using TaxCut with the 5 Federal return limitation.

So, if I were to continue helping my F&F… I’d need to get at 2 copies, negating the cost savings.  I ended up still getting a copy of TurboTax Premium.  Not a big deal – I think it’s still a good value for the amount of time saved!

But – based on the tons of reviews posted, it looks like TaxCut is a good enough alternative to TurboTax.  If the (5) federal filing limit is removed in the future, I’ll be tempted to try it out!

An Interesting Side Business – Walkthrough from Conception to Implementation

Clickminded SEO course

“ClickMinded is an SEO training course for startups. It’s a side project I’ve been working on, outside my full-time job, for the last 3 years. It really took off this year, and crossed over into six-figure revenue in 2014. The course now has 3,888 users.

I was talking to a friend about what a weird journey it’s been to get ClickMinded to where it is, and he recommended writing about it. Hopefully this post will have a few insights that can help other people get their own side projects off the ground and into 6-figure revenues, without leaving their job.”

[Credit goes to my bro William for finding this!]