Social Network Security Risks Rampant

Monday, August 18, 2014 @ 04:08 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
Despite warnings issued over the years about social network security concerns, only a small number of users understand the risks involved, new research said.

Communication via social networks is one of the most popular activities on the Internet, the research said. Using social media sites was the third most popular activity after checking email and reading articles or books, and it was even more popular on mobile devices – ranking second, according to the Kaspersky Lab global Consumer Security Risks Survey for 2014, conducted with B2B International and covers various concerns and behaviors of the modern Internet user.

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From a business perspective, social media brings an additional level of security issues.

“Unfortunately, for most businesses, it often takes the experience of a security incident to motivate someone to take the threats seriously enough to go and get the protection they need,” said Brett Schetzsle, consumer product marketing manager at Kaspersky Lab. “They also realize that without help there just aren’t enough fingers to plug the security holes in the proverbial dam. And that’s just the holes of which they are aware, never mind the nearly invisible leaks that appear every hour of every day.”

For manufacturers, social networks present an opportunity, but also challenges.

“By now, manufacturers are very aware of the potential security risk the ‘Internet of Things’ will bring, Schetzsle said. “Specifically, the malware that may target their appliances or devices might not be direct attacks, but may be introduced into a home network through something one of the household members does on Twitter. They will need to be aware of what the possible paths to infection could be and that their security is only as good as the weakest link. Right now, our survey shows that one of the key weak links is through the use of social media.”

People are often careless with what information they share over social media networks. While using social media networks, every tenth participant discusses private information on social media networks with strangers, but only 18 percent think they reveal more personal information than they should on social networks, according to the study.

In general, 15 percent share information online they would not disclose in the real life. Losing social media network credentials is not a top concern for many, as only 7 percent of respondents included it in their list of top three types of information they would not want to have stolen.

In another interesting finding, 78 percent of respondents do not think they are of any interest to cybercriminals or are unsure about this issue. However, as it has been shown in the past, cybercriminals are always lurking and often look through social networks searching for information inadvertently left by the user.

Information such as an email address can be used to help an attacker break an account password or identify a person’s location. In turn, access to a user’s account can give cybercriminals the opportunity to send malicious links and files to the victim’s friends, stealing their personal data as well, the study said.

Survey statistics also show 40 percent of respondents received suspicious emails or social media messages with unknown links or potentially malicious files, and 21 percent received emails claiming to be from a social media network asking for password and other personal credentials. Moreover, according to Kaspersky Security Network data, in 2013 Kaspersky Lab products blocked more than 600 million attempts to visit a phishing (fake) page and over 35 percent of these sites imitated social networking sites.

In addition, mobile users also find themselves at risk.

Six percent of all respondents stated their social network accounts had been “taken over” by hackers, while among the owners of Android based-tablets this figure reached 13 percent. The number of victims also varies depending on location: Unauthorized access to social network accounts ended up reported by 16 percent of the users in China and the Asia-Pacific region, 19 percent in Russia and 4 percent of North American respondents.

To avoid falling victim to cybercriminals through social networks, consumers are recommended to follow a few rules:
• Use strong passwords for accounts and disable the auto-complete function, especially if logging in from your smartphone or tablet
• Restrict the amount of information shared on any networks; divide “friends” into groups so that information can end up shared with only those really trusted
• Do not download files, do not follow suspicious links from unknown senders
• Before entering credentials, make sure it is not a fake page created in order to obtain usernames and passwords
• Try to use a secure connection if possible; do not enter login and password when connecting to a hotspot over public Wi-Fi
• Make sure the device used to enter a social network is well protected: Use a password to access the device and a reliable security solution.

The study was via an online survey from May to June 2014 with users from 23 countries. A total of 11,135 people aged 16 and over ended up surveyed. As part of the study, users from different countries answer questions about their knowledge of current cyber threats and about incidents they may have encountered.

Click here to review a copy of the study.

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