A report published
today by IT security and data protection firm Sophos has revealed
an alarming rise in attacks on users of social networks, such as
Facebook and Twitter, by cybercriminals.
Sophos's "Social Security" investigation reveals that criminals
have increasingly focused attacks on social networking users in the
last 12 months, with an explosion in the reports of spam and
- 57% of users report they have been spammed via social
networking sites, a rise of 70.6% from last year
- 36% reveal they have been sent malware via social networking
sites, a rise of 69.8% from last year
"Computer users are spending more time on social networks,
sharing sensitive and valuable personal information, and hackers
have sniffed out where the money is to be made," said Graham
Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "The dramatic
rise in attacks in the last year tells us that social networks and
their millions of users have to do more to protect themselves from
organized cybercrime, or risk falling prey to identity theft
schemes, scams, and malware attacks."
72% of firms worried workers behavior on social networks is
putting their business at risk
Sophos surveyed over 500 organizations, and discovered that 72%
are concerned that employee behavior on social networking sites
exposes their businesses to danger, and puts corporate
infrastructure - and the sensitive data stored upon it - at
The "Social Security" survey is just one part of Sophos's
Threat Report, which explores current and emerging computer
security trends. It reveals that criminals identify potential
victims on social networks, and then attack them, both at home and
at work. In Sophos's opinion, many Web 2.0 sites are concentrating
too much on growing their marketshare at the expense of properly
defending their existing users from internet threats.
Facebook - the most feared social network?
Survey respondents were also asked which social network they
believed posed the biggest security risk, with 60% naming
- 1. Facebook: 60%
- 2. MySpace: 18%
- 3. Twitter: 17%
- 4. LinkedIn: 4%
"We shouldn't forget that Facebook is by far the largest social
network - and you'll find more bad apples in the biggest orchard,"
"The truth is that the security team at Facebook works hard to
counter threats on their site - it's just that policing 350 million
users can't be an easy job for anyone. But there is no doubt that
simple changes could make Facebook users safer. For instance, when
Facebook rolled-out its new recommended privacy settings late last
year, it was a backwards step, encouraging many users to share
their information with everybody on the internet."
Sophos's Threat Report also
reveals that 49% of firms allow all their staff unfettered access
to Facebook, a 13% rise on a year ago.
"The grim irony is that just as companies are loosening their
attitude to staff activity on social networks, the threat of
malware, spam, phishing and identity theft on Facebook is
increasing," said Cluley. "However, social networks can be an
essential part of the business mix today, and the answer is not to
bar staff from participating in them but to apply some 'social
LinkedIn - providing hackers with your company's corporate
Although LinkedIn is considered to be by far the least
threatening of the networks, Sophos advises that it can still
provide a sizeable pool of information for hackers.
"Targeted attacks against companies are in the news at the
moment, and the more information a criminal can get about your
organization's structure, the easier for them to send a poisoned
attachment to precisely the person whose computer they want to
break into," explained Cluley. "Sites like LinkedIn provide hackers
with what is effectively a corporate directory, listing your
staff's names and positions. This makes it child's play to
reverse-engineer the email addresses of potential victims."
For further detailed information about the study, as well as
exploring the last 12 months of computer security threats and
predicting emerging cybercrime trends for 2010, download the
Security Threat Report 2010.
Listen to senior security advisor Chester Wisniewski discuss the
latest findings of the report:
Join Graham Cluley as he talks through the highlights of
Sophos's 2010 security report in this pre-recorded
* Sophos survey, 502 respondents, November - December 2009.