Social Networking Security Threats

Understand Facebook security threats

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Facebook: Self-XSS, clickjacking and survey scams abound

With so many users, Facebook is a target for scams; it can also expose your personal information far beyond your group of friends.

Users need to remember that Facebook makes money from its advertisers, not users. Since advertisers want to get their message out to as many people as possible, Facebook shares your information to everyone, not just your "friends." And most recently, Facebook's facial recognition technology automatically suggests that friends tag you, unless you turn it off.

Scams on Facebook include cross-site scripting, clickjacking, survey scams and identity theft. One of the scammers' favorite methods of attack of the moment is known as cross-site scripting or "Self-XSS." Facebook messages such as Why are you tagged in this video? and the Facebook Dislike button take you to a webpage that tries to trick you into cutting and pasting a malicious JavaScript code into your browser’s address bar. Self-XSS attacks can also run hidden, or obfuscated, JavaScript on your computer allowing for malware installation without your knowledge.

Facebook scams also tap into interest in the news, holiday activities and other topical events to get you to innocently reveal your personal information. Facebook posts such as “create a Royal Wedding guest name” and "In honor of Mother’s Day" seem innocuous enough, until you realize that information such as your children’s names and birthdates, pet’s name and street name now reside permanently on the Internet. Since this information is often used for passwords or password challenge questions, it can lead to identity theft.

Other attacks on Facebook users include "clickjacking" or "likejacking," also known as "UI redressing." This malicious technique tricks web users into revealing confidential information or takes control of their computer when they click on seemingly innocuous webpages. Clickjacking takes the form of embedded code or script that can execute without the user's knowledge. One disguise is a button that appears to perform another function. Clicking the button sends out the attack to your contacts through status updates, which propagates the scam. Scammers try to pique your curiosity with messages like "Baby Born Amazing effects" and "The World Funniest Condom Commercial – LOL". Both clickjacking scams take users to a webpage urging them to watch a video. By viewing the video, it’s posted that you “like” the link and it’s shared with your friends, spreading it virally across Facebook.

Clickjacking is also often tied to “survey scams” which trick users into installing an application from a spammed link. Cybercriminals take advantage of news topics, such as the Osama bin Laden video scam, which takes you to a fake YouTube site in an effort to get you to complete a survey. Scammers earn commission for each person that completes it. Taking the survey also spreads the scam virally to your Facebook friends.

In theory, new Facebook security features provide protection against scams and spam—but unfortunately they’re mainly ineffectual. Self-XSS, clickjacking and survey scams essentially did not exist just a few years ago, but they now appear on Facebook and other social networks on a daily basis.

Our recent social networking poll also asked computer users which social network they felt posed the biggest security risk. Facebook is clearly seen as the biggest risk with 81% of the votes, a significant rise from the 60% who felt Facebook was the riskiest when we first asked the question a year ago. Twitter and MySpace each received 8% of the votes this year, and LinkedIn only 3%.

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