To my friends who have received the bossy emails from me lately, I’m sorry. I tried to be nice when I told you to change your password right away and delete all the posts you’d sent to your friends. I know you didn’t like hearing about this. I’m sorry, but I’ve got to say, it’s not me, it’s you.

I know you didn’t mean to do it. I still love you, really I do. If we’re going to stay in this relationship, though, it’s important to understand that this happened because of something you did, not something Facebook did to you. Facebook didn’t hack your account. I’m not blaming you just for fun (it’s not fun at all). It’s just that, if you don’t understand how this happened, it’ll keep on happening.

You were lulled into clicking that link. That link seemed hard to resist. I mean, with the promise of racy photos, a free iPad, a chance to lose 60 pounds in 2 weeks, get 100,000 Twitter followers instantly, or news that you were spotted in this awesome video, you were virtually powerless. The link called out to you – “Click here, click here. Come on, just check it out. You can always close it down if you’re not interested. You know you want to click, just do it.”

Yeah, I know you got the link from a friend. She sent it to you by email, Facebook post or on Twitter. It wasn’t as if you just randomly found the link yourself. After all, you know not to trust those random links. But, when they come from a friend, you can trust that they’re safe, right? Well, as it turns out, maybe not.

Worldwide, time spent on social networking sites has increased 82%. With more users than ever spending more time online, fertile opportunities for spreading spam and bad links have grown exponentially. It’s difficult to avoid it altogether. Often, the best we can do is to identify it and avoid it when we see it.

But, what if we don’t catch it in time and click? What can happen when you click on malicious links? You may allow your computer to be infected with any number of viruses, spyware, malware or other programs from bad, bad people who want to take control of your computer and your private data. This is a bad thing. (Be sure your security software is up-to-date.) What the often happens next on Twitter and Facebook is that the software gets into your account to do as it pleases. While it is rummaging around in your account, it also posts a message to your friends with an enticing link. Problem is, to your friends, this message appears to come from you. If they click on it, it posts to their friends and so on.

Do you see how this works? Who knew a click could be so powerful – and dangerous. So, please, for the love of your own computer security and that of your friends, stop. You look both ways before crossing the street, don’t you? Why wouldn’t you look both ways before crossing over to another website? Stop crossing the internet without thinking first. Before you click, a few things you might want to consider:

  • Does it seem almost too good or easy or tempting to be true?
  • Does this seem like the kind of thing this particular friend would share with me?
  • Is the link shortened (where it makes it difficult to see exactly which site it leads to)?


If you answer yes to any of the above questions, or if your gut screams “Danger, danger!” don’t click. Contact your friend directly and ask if she intended to forward that information to you. Almost 100% of the time I’ve done this, my friend said they did not send the link and had no idea their account had been compromised.

Stay safe out there. Practice safe clicking.

Image courtesy of Peter Kaminski.

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