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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."