Social networks provide the ideal forum for spammers and hackers to engage in all types of cybercrime. Due to the inherent trust factor involved, most people (not including our tech-savvy readers, of course) don’t think twice before clicking on a link sent from a friend. Additionally, as personal information is disseminated to all corners of the web from the enormous user-bases of social networks, hackers and crooks have more opportunity than ever to implement their cyberattacks.
Don’t let your love of Tweeting or addiction to Facebook get you into trouble. Here’s a list of the top three threats to social networks about which every user should know:
Malware on social networking sites is increasing. According to a recent study, 36 percent of users reported that they have been sent malware via social networks, an increase of nearly 70 percent from the previous year. Cybercriminals use a variety of methods to spread malicious software on social networks. Harmful tweets, direct messages, or links posted on Facebook profiles are common ways to trick other users into downloading malware. For instance, last year a malicious link was posted on the automated Twitter feed of author and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki, and the nefarious Koobface worm has wreaked havoc on Facebook. Applications and advertisements can also contain malware, so always be careful where you click, even if you receive a link from a trusted source.
Previously, spammers registered their own fake accounts on social networking sites to send unsolicited messages; however, they’ve now found better ways to target victims. Since it’s less likely that the typical user will open a message from an unknown sender, they will now hijack an account and send a spam message to all of the victim’s contacts, increasing the possibility that their communication will be opened. Spam, like malware, is also increasing. 57 percent of users reported that they have been spammed by a social networking site, a 70.6 percent increase from the previous year. Therefore, social network users should always proceed with caution, even when receiving messages from friends.
Like spam and malware, phishing attacks also prey upon the inherent trust of social network users. A typical scam will involve a cybercriminal sending a message to a victim’s Facebook inbox as well as an email that appears to come from the victim’s friend. The text of the message asks the recipient to visit a fake Fakebook log-in page that is used to steal the victim’s personal information, which will then be used in future attacks. Furthermore, once the cybercriminal has the victim’s login credentials, there are a variety of ways to leverage this critical information, including identity theft schemes, online banking fraud, or a host of other cybercriminal endeavors.
All three threats go hand in hand, so follow these rules to ensure a safe social networking experience.