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Social Networks Make Great Phishing Holes (And The Crooks Know It!)

The overwhelming popularity of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks -- as well as the nature of their members' trust in them and their content -- is proving to be bonanza for phishers. So much so that social networking scams increased a stunning 241% between early 2008 and this year.
The overwhelming popularity of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks -- as well as the nature of their members' trust in them and their content -- is proving to be bonanza for phishers. So much so that social networking scams increased a stunning 241% between early 2008 and this year.A new report shows just how trusting social network users are -- trusting enough that crooks are phishing the networks hard, casting, as it were, their nets into the nets.

The result, according to MarkMonitor, is a 241% increase in social networking scams over last year.

The company, which specializes in brand protection and monitoring, included the social net figures in its latest "Brandjacking Index", which detailed the not unexpected increase in the use of recognized and trusted financial brands for scams.

Overall phishing attacks increased by 36%, the company found.

But the importance of the sharp (to say the least!) increase in social networking phishing -- messages that appear to be legitimate communications from another member of Facebook, Twitter, or other social net, but contain links to malicious sites -- should raise warning flags for you and everyone of your employees who uses a social net, whether for business or personal reasons or, as seems most common, both.

The "relaxation factor" -- lowering our guards when we're using a site or service we're accustomed to -- can't be quantified, but I'm not going out on too much of a limb to say that many social net users' guards are set pretty low. Part of the appeal of social networks, in fact, has always been their ease of use and the sheer size of the universe they enable users to interact with. Stir in the increasing popularity of nets such as Facebook for business purposes, and add a historically, well, relaxed approach to social network security, and you have the ingredients for a perfect storm of phishing opportunity.

So: time -- it's always time -- to tighten up your social network usage policies, and remind all of your employees that mail or friend requests or whatever from apparently trusted sources may be just that: only apparently trustworthy.

The complete MarkMonitor Btandjacking Index can be downloaded here.

Once your security and usage policies are re-tightened, take a look at

bMighty's Guide to Social Networking for Business.

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