Social networking is an exploitable internet addiction says Webroot

In its third annual report on cybercrime on social networks, the security vendor reports that 54% of users are addicted to the social networking services, so allowing fraudsters to take advantage of internet users.

In a survey of 4,000 social network users, Webroot assessed year-over-year trends in user behaviours, such as the usage of privacy settings, the incidence of security attacks, and the usage of certain data-sharing features.

In addition, researchers explored several emerging areas, such as self-reported addiction to social networks, beliefs about who is responsible for our security on social networks, and security measures taken whilst accessing social networks via mobile devices.

According to Jacques Erasmus, a threat expert with Webroot, threats targeting social networks are continuously being regenerated into new versions, allowing their makers to evade detection and spread their malicious programs relentlessly across user? accounts.

"Over the last nine months, our threat intelligence network has detected more than 4,000 versions of the Koobface virus hitting social network users”, he said, adding that cybercriminals continue to target social networks because they can quickly access a large pool of victims in doing so.

But, he went on to say, Webroot's findings show that people are becoming aware of this, and are now becoming savvier about safeguarding their devices and the personal information they share online.

Delving into Erasmus and his team's research reveals that, in the UK, the number of social networkers who experienced attacks on their networks jumped from 6% in 2009 to 12% in 2010 and on to 15% in 2011. Friends in distress scams, meanwhile, jumped from 6% in 2009 to 11% in 2011.

The good news it that, against this backdrop, Webroot says that social network user are getting more careful when it comes to protecting their privacy, with the number of UK users who have never viewed or changed their privacy settings dropping from 31% in 2009 to just 8% this year.

The 2011 report claims to show that 54% of respondents said they feel some level of addiction to their social network of choice, whilst 46% percent of respondents visit their favourite social network several times a day or constantly, with a further 18% visiting once per day.

Interestingly, researchers found that older generations of social networkers are at greater risk for security issues on their smartphones/tablets; nearly 50% of those aged 35 or older did not have any security installed on their devices.

As a result of its research, the IT security vendor advises users that they need to be secure wherever they go:

Whether you access your social network through your mobile device or your desktop computer, make sure you are protected with anti-malware software and services from a reputable provider.

Users should also be selective when it comes to sharing information about your whereabouts - whether you are heading to Cabo or in line at the grocery store, think twice about who can see your location.

Finally, Webroot recommends that users should be sceptical - if a link looks like something your friend would not send, s/he probably did not send the link. And offers that sound too good to be true probably are.

“Ensure you are not a victim of social engineering and help prevent the spread of malware by not clicking the link”, says the report.

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