Feeds

Grifters find rich pickings on social networking sites

Phishermans' friend

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Social networking sites are creating a means for hackers and conmen to worm their way into the confidence of users.

Sites such as LinkedIn can be used to create a veneer of trust that leaves internet users and business at a greater risk of attack, according to a study by Danish security firm CSIS. Dennis Rand, a security researcher at CSIS, created a fictitious entry on the LinkedIn network before inviting random and unknown users of LinkedIn to join his private network. By posing as an ex-employee of "targeted" firms he was able to prompt real workers from these firms into establishing connections.

Within a few weeks Rand created a network of 1340 trusted connections. In a research paper, Threats when using online social networks (PDF), Rand explains how information gleaned through this network might be used to harvest email addresses for spamming or worse. The "blind trust" built into social networks might be abused to send messages containing links to malicious code that are more likely to be accepted because they come from a "trusted" source, for example.

Other risks include the possibility that sales staff might take sensitive sales prospect contact lists with them when they change jobs. Just putting these contacts online creates a data leak risk.

Rand's study focused on LinkedIn, a business-focused network with around 10m registered users, but the risks highlighted apply to social networking sites as a whole. He argues firms need to update their security policies to contain rules for using social networking sites.

Consumers also need to be wary about treating social networking sites as a safe environment. According to a recent Indiana University study, 72 per cent of recipients of spoofed phishing emails from social networking acquaintances failed to twig that something was amiss. But just 15 per cent failed to realise that a similar message sent by a stranger might be a scam. Data harvested from social networking sites might be used to personalise scam messages, thus increasing the plausibility of so-called spear phishing attacks.

In a recent interview, conducted by ha.ckers.org, a phishing fraudstere claims e could rake in between $3,000-$4,000 a day, by targeting users of social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn.

The stock-in-trade of this conman, who goes by the name 'Lithium', is to capture of login credential using bogus social networking sites, designed to resemble the real thing. He then accesses a victim's email account using captured login information, taking advantage of the fact that users often use the same password for multiple sites. Access to email accounts can be in turn be used to access any associated PayPal or eBay accounts.

This is a plausible enough scenario, even though Lithium's claimed spoils seem high. Perhaps the 19 year-old self-confessed fraudster feels the need to brag about his earnings. ®

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
DARPA-derived secure microkernel goes open source tomorrow
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.