Feeds

Social networkers risk losing their identities

Beware Web 2.0 conmen and malware

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

Many adult users of social network sites such as MySpace and Facebook expose themselves to risk from identity thieves and hackers, according to a new US study.

The focus of concerns over social networking sites has so far focused on incidents where online predators have used the sites to "groom" potential child victims for abuse. A new study by the US National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and enterprise software firm CA looks at online behavior and the possibility of cyber-crime threats such as fraud, identity theft, computer spyware and viruses tied in with the use of social networking sites.

Although 57 percent of people who use social networking sites expressed concern about becoming victims of cyber-crime, they are still divulging information that may put them at risk. For example, 74 per cent of the 2,163 adults quizzed in the survey said they had given out personal information, such as their email address, name and birthday. The majority (83 per cent) of adults who use social networking sites confessed that they have downloaded unknown files from other people's profiles, potentially exposing themselves to malware as a result. Nearly a third (31 per cent) of adults who use social networking sites have responded to "phishy" (ie potential fraudulent) unsolicited email or instant messages, the survey found.

Contrary to the popular view that social networking sites are exclusively used by teenagers, the survey found a large number of adults (48 per cent) of 18 years or over use sites such as MySpace, with 53 per cent of adults who use social networking sites over the age of 35. The survey, released at part of National Cyber Security Awareness month, makes the obvious point that users ought to guard potentially sensitive information.

"Those who frequent these sites should be aware the data they share may make them prey for online attacks. Giving out a social security number, paired with a birthday and name, could provide enough ammunition for criminals to hack into financial records and compromise users' personal information," warns Ron Texeria, executive director of NCSA.

On a more positive note, the survey found that that parents are taking safety precautions with their children. Of the parents that know their kids use social networking sites, 64 percent monitor their children's profiles and 49 percent have restricted their profile so that it can only be seen by their friends. Many adults have discussed safety precautions with their children, highlighting the risk from online predators.

It seems adults are more diligent about informing their offspring about malware risks than guarding against online attacks themselves. The survey reports that 72 percent of adults have spoke to their children about watching out for malicious software and 64 percent have discussed how to watch out for fraudsters trying to steal money.

The NCSA and National Consumers League's gives a number of pointers of its own on "safe surfing" habits to apply on social networking sites. Users should defend themselves with common sense and appropriate security technologies (such as up-to-date anti-virus software), it advises. "Picture social networking sites as billboards in cyberspace. Police, college admissions personnel, employers, stalkers, con artists, nosy neighbors - anyone can see what you post. Criminals scan social networking sites to find potential victims for all sorts of scams, from phony lotteries to bogus employment and business opportunities to investment fraud.," the NCSA advises. "Be cautious about meeting your new cyber friends in person. After all, it's hard to judge people by photos or information they post about themselves," it adds.

The complete CA/NCSA survey on social networking, as well as more safety tips for users of social networking sites, can be found on the staysafeonline.org web site. ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.