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7/31/2009
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Black Hat: Social Networks Reveal, Betray, Help Users

Researchers at security conference show how social networks can reveal more than users intend.

Posting personal information on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other popular social networks can be more dangerous than it seems, a security researcher said this week. These networks, however, can also reveal information useful in solving crimes and assisting first responders in emergencies.

Speaking at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, Nitesh Dhanjani, a consultant who helps secure large corporations, showed how social networks could be mined for clues to people's behavior.

He demonstrated how software programs could be created, sometimes using tools provided by the social networks themselves, to figure out the location of politicians who use Twitter or piece together social connections on LinkedIn or determine someone's state of mind by the frequency and type of words he or she uses.

He also reviewed how social networking sites can be misused by bad actors to try to influence public opinion, which happened last year during the coordinated bombing attacks on Mumbai. False posts were created on Twitter to try to disrupt rescue efforts, Dhanjani said.

Social networks have become regular targets of criticism at Black Hat, where researchers make headlines every year because they've managed to poke holes in some popular information technology.

Last year two researchers -- Shawn Moyer and Nathan Hamiel -- set up fake profiles on three different social networking sites and attracted more than 150 friends, including defense industry executives, the chief security officers of major corporations, and other people who should have known better, the pair said.

This year they talked about how information can be stolen from Web surfers through the use of dynamic cross-site scripting attacks.

But social networking sites can also be useful, Dhanjani said. For example, Twitter posts can be filtered by geography or keyword to provide an early warning system for firefighters and other emergency responders.


InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis on data-loss prevention. Download the report here (registration required).

For Further Reading:

Bombshell From Black Hat: Almost All Implementations Of SSL Are Configured To Give Up Everything

Black Hat: Android, iPhone SMS Flaws Revealed

Black Hat Researcher Cracks Algorithm For Creating Social Security Numbers

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The cybersecurity profession struggles to retain women (figures range from 10 to 20 percent). It's particularly worrisome for an industry with a rapidly growing number of vacant positions.

So why does the shortage of women continue to be worse in security than in other IT sectors? How can men in infosec be better allies for women; and how can women be better allies for one another? What is the industry doing to fix the problem -- what's working, and what isn't?

Is this really a problem at all? Are the low numbers simply an indication that women do not want to be in cybersecurity, and is it possible that more women will never want to be in cybersecurity? How many women would we need to see in the industry to declare success?

Join Dark Reading senior editor Sara Peters and guests Angela Knox of Cloudmark, Barrett Sellers of Arbor Networks, Regina Wallace-Jones of Facebook, Steve Christey Coley of MITRE, and Chris Roosenraad of M3AAWG on Wednesday, July 13 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to discuss all this and more.