How Safe is Social Media?

I received a text on my mobile phone, via a social media platform, informing me that my friend had picked up a virus. Not unusual for this time of year I thought, until he told me that this virus was of the cyber variety and was not a common cold or flu but something attacking his Facebook account.

This was a first for me, not that it surprised me, it’s just I had not given it much thought before. However once I did, it just occurred to me just how manymore people out there would be the same. I started digging around to find out more and this is what I found.

Indeed the bad guys (internet criminals) are now using the phenomenally popular social networks to try to covertly trick us to unknowingly give away our personal information or worse our bank/credit card details.

Until now I had resisted the need to get any social media identities. However having just spent more hours than I care to admit working on my companies new website I decided it is a little naive not to use social media as a way of marketing the company. To me it is the modem way of advertisement leaflet dropping with the added benefit of not having to hear the very polite yet adamant “no thank you” when I offer a stranger a leaflet.

Whilst I cannot be sure anyone reading this will not be surprised to learn that indeed Facebook and Twitter users are being attacked by the bad guys. I investigated further to find:-

Last month thousands of Facebook Friends (term used to count virtual contacts) were warning each other about a Christmas tree virus said to be spreading in the form of a rogue application (malware) on the social network.

What was the problem with this warning?

Only, that it was utterly bogus.

So what can we/you do?

Please do not share virus warnings with your online friends until you have checked them with a credible source. Malware (software covertly installed on computers or phones) can be killed off fairly easily, however misinformation like this can give a new lease of life for months, if not years, because people believe they are “doing the right thing” by sharing the warning with their friends.

This is not new problem and to give a little credit to Facebook who in 2008 warned users of viruses that they should be aware of wrote and said:-

“Watch out for two new viruses that are spreading across the web. They involve emails made to look like they are from Facebook telling you to take some action on your account. Remember that we will never send you a new password as an attachment.”

However the problem is not going away either. Take for instance, the recent poll conducted by an established computer security company who reported only this week – After asking the opinion of over 1200 computer users.

Q. – Which social network they felt posed the biggest security risk?

A. – Facebook won with 82% whilst Twitter and MySpace came equal second with 8% and Linkedin with 2%

Now just so you understand the magnitude of this situation and to give you a sense of prospective. If Facebook users were a country by population it would be close to the THIRD largest country in the world! And whilst the media sites actions in 2008 seemed credible if this quote below is correct I for one feel they should be doing more.

“The scale of malicious activity on Facebook appears to be out of control, and people are taking notice. The same Poll found that 95% of respondents wanted Facebook to do more to prevent “likejacking” attacks, (likejacking by clicking “like” on Facebook which does more than it should) and urged the site to impose stricter controls on this. The social media site, however, is either unable or unwilling to invest the necessary resources to stamp it out.”

What do you think?

Do you have similar stories to tell?

Have you been receiving fake Facebook emails?

Let us know in the comments.

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