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Social Networking Poll Shows Users More Vulnerable Than Ever

AVG and CMO Council survey shows that the widespread and growing use of social networks at home and work is creating serious danger of Web-borne identity theft and infection
Amsterdam, August 26, 2009 " The results of Bringing Social Security to the Online Community poll were released today, highlighting the vulnerabilities and concerns of social community members around cyber security and the precautions that they are taking or need to take to protect themselves. The online survey conducted by AVG and the CMO Council reveals that while the social networking community has serious concerns about the overall security of public spaces, few are taking the most basic of steps to protect themselves against online crimes.

The survey shows that while the majority of social networking users are afflicted by web-borne security problems, less than one third are taking actions to protect themselves online. Participants indicated concern over growing phishing, spam and malware attacks, and nearly half of those surveyed are very concerned about their personal identity being stolen in an online community.

The survey was conducted online during the second quarter of 2009 and gathered responses from a random sampling of more than 250 consumers. According to the poll results, despite widespread use (86 percent) of social networks at home and/or at work, most fail to perform the following basic security measures on a regular basis:

  • Changing passwords (64 percent infrequently or never)
  • Adjusting privacy settings (57 percent infrequently or never)
  • Informing their social network administrator (90 percent infrequently or never)

    "As social networking populations grow globally and the proliferation of niche social networks and mobile offerings extends the reach of social communities, the threats and vulnerabilities are escalating accordingly," said Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council. "More frequent breaches and outbreaks on popular social sites are a testament to the need for a more preventative mindset and threat-alert culture among community users."

    Despite the apparent security risks and dangers of engaging in social networking sites, respondents identified several common practices that could cause harm to unprotected users:

  • 21 percent accept contact offerings from members they don't recognize
  • More than half let acquaintances or roommates access social networks on their machines
  • 64 percent click on links offered by community members or contacts
  • 26 percent share files within social networks

    As a result of this widespread proliferation of links, files, and unsolicited contacts, users have experienced high levels of breaches and threats:

  • Nearly 20 percent have experienced identity theft
  • 47 percent have been victims of malware infections
  • 55 percent have seen phishing attacks

    "The fact that users understand the risks, and yet are failing to take the basic steps to protect themselves presents an interesting challenge to companies, like AVG, that are working to create a safer cyber community," said Siobhan MacDermott, Head of Head of Public Policy, Corporate Communications and Investor Relations, AVG Technologies.

    According to MacDermott, AVG hopes to reverse this trend on familiar turfs such as Facebook and Twitter. "Our DataSnatchers campaign is a viral effort that will not only get consumers thinking about their personal security but will also provide them with simple tools to do something about it when they are in the spaces that make them feel the most vulnerable."

    MacDermott said that the Data Snatchers campaign is about combining sound technology with safe practices while enjoying the social computing experience. In addition to encouraging users to take advantage of AVG's free security offering at http://avgfree.com MacDermott encourages users to follow Six Simple Steps to Stay Secure:

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