Feeds

Social networkers risk losing their identities

Beware Web 2.0 conmen and malware

Security for virtualized datacentres

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
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?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.