Connecting To Stranger Danger

One more point on the “be careful who you connect to” side of things – the person you connect to may not always be real.

Computer World features an article this week on how “Robin Sage” was able to connect, friend, and follow on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter – with professionals in the security field.

On one side it isn’t as explosive as it could be, but on the other, there was probably too free a flow of information…

The fake account

Email and social networking sites have no defense against an impostor – that’s just the way it is. Any John, Jane, or Jake can stop in and identify themselves as Adam, Ann, or Amy.

And you and I have to work with a healthy respect for that situation.

Pseudonyms, Pen Names, and Posers

There are as many different reasons to use a fake name as there are people using them, but we should consider two cases.

The most common would be using a completely fictitious name so that the other individual does not know who you really are. If I were Nostradamus and wanted to publish some uncharacteristic predictions, I might create a pen name of “Dart Samuno” in order to conceal my identity.

If I wanted to find out what my competitor was up to, I’d pick some generic name like Amy Smith and pretend to be a customer. I’ll leave the remainder of how that might go to your imagination.

As far as the last category – pretending to be someone else… It has not been my experience that many people pose as someone else for these sorts of purposes. (outside of the celebrity situation where I pretend to be Sandra Bullock for the thrill of it…)

Robin Sage

And so when Robin Sage appeared as the alter ego of Thomas Ryan as described in Computer World’s article “Fake femme fatale shows social network risks“, he was interested in finding out how far he could go, and what information he could gather.

And I have no concern over his Facebook or Twitter connections – those sites make no distinction among connections, and any individual who thought they were really connected to that “real person” through the site has got to re-evaluate things…

But LinkedIn – on the prime professional platform, he was able to make 206 connections.


Would you really want to connect to your competitor and let them know:

  • Who else you know and connect to (through existing and new connections)
  • What you’re up to (through status updates)
  • Where your career is headed (through profile updates)

If it has not been a concern of yours to date, it should be.

You don’t do that, do you?

If you connect to people you know and trust, you are much, much less likely to encounter this situation. Preventing connections with strangers is your first line of defense.

And yes – limit what you place on your profile and in your updates.  I’ve maintained for a long time that you don’t want to put “super sekrit” information on your profile – just don’t do it…

Take this event as a data point that it can and does happen – and make sure you’re not the one with egg on your face when the news report gets out.

To your continued success,


Steven Tylock