Identity Thief Blackmails 172 Women on Facebook

privacy_eyeSecurity settings in social networking sites and email addresses are there for a reason: secure what information users share about them on the internet. A user would know how effective these standard security settings are, if and only if, their account does not get hacked by malicious and cruel cyber stalkers. In this latest case of cyber stalking, standard security features the email service providers implement has proven defenseless because of the open profiles suggested by Facebook.

You Are Your Own Keeper

To better ‘connect’ with friends, a user usually fills in the profile page with data concerning his family background, affiliations, education and work, activities and interests and even favorite TV shows, movies, books and singers.

Facebook connects users through common denominations of their lives—whether it is interests and activities, the place where a user is from, where he is now or education and work affiliations.

Sharing this information on the Facebook profile can be set through the privacy settings—meaning that a user can basically control who can view the data on their profile. This works if the user is concerned with keeping some parts of his life private. But if a user wants to fully maximize the social networking experience Facebook has to offer, he can opt to follow Facebook’s advice.

Facebook usually prompts users to set these privacy settings open to everyone to ‘better connect’ with friends on their site. As the common user sees Facebook recommending the ‘open to everyone’ setting, shall he or she follow suit? Hey, Facebook endorses openness, right?

They should not have.


George_BronkA 23-year-old resident of Citrus Heights, California has been arrested on grounds of false impersonation, computer intrusion, possession of child pornography and 4 other felony charges that landed him with a penalty of six years in prison because of the email’s standard security questions revolving around a user’s personal information and Facebook’s providing complete background information through the ‘open to everyone’ prompt.

George Bronk searched Facebook’s more than 500 million profiles for women who provided their email addresses and personal background publicly—those who fell for the ‘open to everyone’ prompt. Using the information he gathered about these women, he contacted their email service provider pretending to forget the password. The standard security check of the email is to ask personal questions about the user, all of which were readily provided to him by the users Facebook profile information.

Upon gaining access to the email, George Bronk skimmed for pictures and videos involving nudity. He would either share these with all of their contacts, or he would threaten the user of publicly sharing the incriminating pictures if they did not send him new ones. Some users had their Facebook accounts violated as well.

A victim from Connecticut reported George Bronk to the Connecticut State Police Department who in turn contacted California Highway Patrol to finally arrest him—but not before he garnered 172 emails containing pornographic material.

George Bronk pleaded guilty to the felony charges in the Sacramento Superior Court and faces a possible penalty of six years.

Safety comes first. Any user, whatever gender, should proceed with caution when filling up personal date fields and sharing them with supposed ‘friends’.

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