Innocent personal details you share are hacker’s gold

Remember the name of your first street? What about that first concert you attended? How about the name of your first pet?

Those questions and many others just like them are increasingly popping up on Facebook, generating scores of responses from people innocently offering up tidbits of their lives that, experts warn,  can fall into the hands of cyber-crooks.

Malicious hackers look closely at the answers that Facebook users post about their pets, hometowns, children’s names and other pieces of information. And they make lists of them hoping to crack the passwords to the posters’ private accounts, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Samantha Baltzersen told the Times Union.

If crooks gain access to your computer, the agent warned, they can exploit your personal information and sell it. Baltzersen urged people not to use the names of their children, or their pets or favorite sports teams as passwords.

The longer the password, she said, the better. She recommended 26 character passwords.

Baltzersen said even wishing happy birthday to a child on forums such as Facebook can backfire. Crooks can see the post and quickly know the child’s name, date of birth and location to create fake accounts — destroying the child’s future credit before the child is grown.

“Humans are hardwired to trust,” said Baltzersen, a 17-year veteran of the FBI who heads a cyber task force and is now based in Albany, “and these people are taking advantage of our desire to trust other people.”

The agent stopped short of pointing the finger at the entities that post the variety of questions on social media, but Baltzersen stressed that people need to be wary of the information they are putting online.

“It may be innocent in some instances,” Baltzersen said, “but once it’s out there, it’s out there forever.”

Antony Haynes, an associate dean and professor at Albany Law School, said the various personal questions on Facebook may simply be software developers seeking a database of possible marketable leads. Still, Haynes, the school’s…