Social networking security threats increase significantly: Sophos

by CXOtoday Staff    Jan 24, 2011

securityForty percent of social networking users (quizzed) have been sent malware such as worms via social networking sites, stated Security Threat Report 2011, published by Sophos, IT security and control firm. The report further analyzes cybercrime during the last year and talks about IT security trends to watch in 2011.

By mid-2010, Facebook recorded half a billion active users, stated the report, this massive user base is heavily targeted by scammers and cybercriminals, with the number and diversity of attacks growing steadily throughout 2010. Malware, phishing and spam on social networks have all continued to rise in the past year, indicated the survey findings.

“Rogue applications, click jacking, survey scams - all unheard of just a couple of years ago, are now popping up on a daily basis on social networks such as Facebook,” observed Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant, Sophos. “Why aren’t Facebook and other social networks doing more to prevent spam and scams in the first place? People need to be very careful they don’t end up being conned for their personal details, or get tricked into clicking on links that could earn money for cybercriminals or infect innocent computers,” he suggested.

Among the surveyed users, 67 percent admitted that they have been spammed via social networking sites, more than double the proportion less than two years ago, while 43 percent have been on the receiving end of phishing attacks, more than double the figure since 2009.

Although results vary across the individual networks of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn, the latest poll suggests that half of those surveyed have been given unrestricted access to social networks at work. Paradoxically, 59 percent believe employee behavior on social networking sites could endanger corporate network security.

Although 82 percent of the survey’s respondents felt that Facebook posed the biggest risk to security, Sophos has labeled an attack on the Twitter as the biggest single social networking security incident of 2010.

The survey also highlighted that, the USA continues to be the home of most infected WebPages. However, over the past six months alone, European countries have become a more abundant source of malicious pages, with France in particular displacing China from the second spot, increasing its contribution from 3.82 to 10.00 percent of global malware-hosting websites.

“Over the year, we saw an average of 30,000 new malicious URLs every day - that’s one every two-to-three seconds. More than 70 percent of these are legitimate websites that have been hacked - this means that businesses and website owners could inadvertently be infecting their patrons unintentionally and without knowledge,” informed Cluley.