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Avoiding Malware on Social Networks

In our current age of ubiquitous social networking, it is easy to get drawn into what our friends and acquaintances say, do, and post. As most people choose to share stories that they find interesting, we think nothing of clicking on the link, reading, and adding our own insights to a comment thread. By extension, if a friend navigates over to your wall and posts something there, wouldn’t you read it? Not so fast. Hackers are targeting popular sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and many users are falling victim.

On Facebook, you might receive a wall post or message from a friend saying something like “Check it out!,” followed by a link that could infect your computer with malware. On Twitter, hackers might create an account with the intention of feeding off a hot topic. Related text masking a suspicious link then tricks people into thinking the URL is just another story about whatever subject, to their detriment. The main problem is that oftentimes these links are not obviously malicious, especially when supposedly coming from a trusted source, whose account, in reality, may have been hacked.

Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb has identified the 8 Best Practices for staying safe on Facebook and Twitter. Her advice:

  1. Don’t assume a link is “safe” because it’s from a friend
  2. Don’t assume Twitter links are safe because Twitter is now scanning for malware
  3. Don’t Assume Bit.ly Links are Safe
  4. Use an up-to-date web browser
  5. Keep Windows up-to-date
  6. Keep Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash up-to-date
  7. Don’t assume you’re safe because you use a Mac
  8. Be wary of email messages from social networks

The bottom line, as always, is to exercise caution when confronted with a link, and use your best judgment.

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