Webroot, a leading provider of internet security solutions for global consumers and businesses, recently released the results of its annual survey that showed an increase in the amount of cyber attacks within social networks. While the results of the survey may be troublesome, they are not surprising considering the ever-growing popularity of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
Webroot’s results were derived from an online survey conducted between June 3 and 8. The company contracted Research Now to survey 3,949 internet users in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia who had a social networking profile and spent at least one hour per day online outside of work or school. Once the results were tallied, the survey found that approximately 18 percent of users in the United States were hit by Koobface or other forms of social networking malware, up from 13 percent in 2010 and 8 percent in 2009. In the United Kingdom, 15 percent of users were affected by social networking attacks of some sort, up from 12 percent in 2010 and 6 percent in 2009.
One specific attack that has become popular deals with scams involving claims of friends in distress. In this attack, a user receives a message from a so-called friend claiming to be in a foreign country and needing money. Approximately 14 percent of U.S. social networkers were affected by such scams in 2011, up from just 2 percent in 2009. In the U.K., 11 percent of users were affected, compared to 6 percent in 2009.
Although social networking threats are on the rise, it appears as if the trend has also made users more conscious of the need to protect their privacy. Only 8 percent of users in the United States admitted to never viewing or changing their privacy settings in 2011, down from a whopping 37 percent in 2009. In the United Kingdom, only 9 percent ignored privacy settings, compared to 31 percent in 2009. Users who adjusted their privacy settings focused on items that block their profile from public searches, block beacon websites, restrict how others find them through a search, and restrict information shown once located through a search.
Since Facebook appears to be the social networking king, Webroot asked the survey’s participants what they thought the responsibility was of Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, when it comes to keeping personal information secure. The majority of respondents (73 percent) said that it was their personal responsibility to secure their personal information. Only 13 percent said that Zuckerberg and Facebook should be responsible. An additional 10 percent claimed security companies should be in charge of protecting personal data on social networks.
As mentioned, the overwhelming popularity of social networks makes them an attractive target for hackers. Webroot asked participants if they were addicted to social networks. The survey found that 54 percent of users acknowledged some level of addiction, and 46 percent said they visit their favorite social several times per day. Only 18 percent admitted to visiting once per day. Younger generations appear to be the most active, as 75 percent of Millenials (ages 18 to 34) said they were addicted, as opposed to 44 percent of older generations.
Millenials are the most active social networkers, but they are also the most savvy when it comes to security. A majority of the group’s users (54 percent) said they visit social networks several times per day from mobile devices such as a smartphone or tablet. Much of the activity is safeguarded, as 54 percent of such users have security installed on their devices to protect against cyber attacks or loss/theft. Older generations are the most at risk for attacks, with half of those 35 years or older lacking any form of installed security on their mobile devices.
Jacques Erasmus, a threat expert with Webroot, commented on the survey’s overall findings. He said: "Threats targeting social networks are continuously being regenerated in new versions so their makers can evade detection and spread their malicious programs relentlessly across users' accounts. Over the last nine months, our threat intelligence network has detected more than 4,000 versions of the Koobface virus hit social network users. Cybercriminals continue to target social networks because they can quickly access a large pool of victims. But our findings show that people are becoming aware of this, and they're now savvier about safeguarding their devices and the personal information they share online."
To counteract the rise of targeted social networking attacks, Webroot offers a few tips. First, protect your computer or mobile devices with a solid, up-to-date anti-malware program. Second, avoid updating your whereabouts on your profile, as you never know who could be watching. Finally, use common sense. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do not click on suspicious links, even if they come from a friend’s profile, as their account may have been compromised.
For more on this topic, visit http://pr.webroot.com/threat-research/cons/social-networking-habits-webroot-research-081611.html
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