Social Media Security Threats to Rise in 2011: Report

By Nathan Eddy  |  Print this article Print

As more businesses jump on the social media bandwagon, security concerns over Facebook and other sites rise.

Forty percent of social networking users quizzed have been sent malware such as worms via social networking sites, a 90 percent increase since April 2009, according to IT security and control firm Sophos' Security Threat Report 2011, which analyzes cyber-crime during the last year and looks at IT security trends to watch in 2011. In addition, two-thirds (67 percent) said they have been spammed via social networking sites, more than double the number less than two years ago, and 43 percent said they have been on the receiving end of phishing attacks, more than double the figure since April 2009.

Although results vary across the individual networks of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn, the latest poll suggests that half of those surveyed have been given unrestricted access to social networks at work. Paradoxically, 59 percent of respondents said they believe employee behavior on social networking sites could endanger corporate network security, and 57 percent worry that colleagues are sharing too much information on social networks.

"Total bans on users accessing social networking sites are becoming rarer, as more firms recognize the value such sites can bring in raising brand awareness and delivering social media marketing campaigns," explained Sophos senior technology consultant Graham Cluley. "If your business isn't on Facebook, but your competitors are, you are going to be at a disadvantage. But you have to be aware of the risks and secure your users while they're online."

Although 82 percent of the survey’s respondents felt that Facebook posed the biggest risk to security, Sophos labeled an attack on the Twitter microblogging network as the biggest single social networking security incident of 2010. In addition to increasingly prevalent social networking threats, tried and tested cyber-crime tactics continue to plague Internet users.

While the United States continues to be the home of most infected Web pages, the survey noted that over the past six months, European countries have become a more abundant source of malicious pages, with France in particular displacing China from the second spot, increasing its contribution from 3.82 percent to 10 percent of global malware-hosting Websites.

"Many computer users still don't realize that you can wind up with something nasty on your machine simply by visiting a Website," Cluley said. "Over the year, we saw an average of 30,000 new malicious URLs every day—that's one every two to three seconds. More than 70 percent of these are legitimate Websites that have been hacked—this means that businesses and Website owners could inadvertently be infecting their patrons unintentionally and without knowledge."