A social network profile can give away some valuable tidbits - victims name and date of birth - that identity thieves can use to guess passwords or impersonate them, and even eventually steal their identity, some security experts say.
But that doesnt mean that identity thieves are crawling all over social networks, Hamiel says. I just think that the claims that social networks are an identity theft magnet are overblown."
Social networkers sometimes inadvertently hand over the goods themselves: In a study Sophos conducted over a year ago, about 41 percent of Facebook users in the study gave out their email address, date of birth, and phone number to someone they didnt know.
One safety tip for social networkers is not to answer all the questions posed to them by the site, and don't provide your true date of birth, Sophos's Cluley says. You dont need to tell Facebook your educational background, your phone number, etc. You dont even have to tell them your real date of birth, he says. I want the identity thief to get the wrong date of birth.
You can even make up a phony maiden name for your mother. Dont make it something thats a matter of public record, he says.
Even so, social networks basically tap into human natures innate need to socialize, and the bad guys know it. People aren't very good at security, RSnake says. We were built to work in teams, we're pack animals.
Next Page: 7) Corporate espionage
Even if an employer blocks access to social networks from the office, the organization still could be susceptible to corporate espionage attacks via its employees personal profiles.
To pull off a spear phishing attack, for example, all an attacker has to do is search for Company As employees on a social networking site and then pose as someone within the organization -- such as the head of human resources -- and email the employee addresses he finds, for example. A phony HR spear phish could look something like this, Sophoss Cluley says: Dear Fred Jones, Congratulations on joining XYZ Company. Click on this link to access our HR Intranet and then log in with your regular network username and password so we can update our files.
A newbie to the company could easily fall for the ploy and hand over access to the corporate network, he says.
The only shot at preventing this hack is for social networkers to limit what they post publicly and to keep their employers name out of their profile. Keeping the name of your employer... far away from your personal profiles can reduce the chance that someone will target your employer through you, BreakingPoints Moore says. The trouble is that even with completely separate personal and professional identities, it only takes one scrap of public information linking the two to negate all of the time that went into separating them in the first place.
Thats because the six degrees of separation rule applies on most social networks: Youre only a few hops away from a bad guy. We know that there are bad people on these networks using them to steal information, Cluley says. You may be only a half a dozen hops from an identity thief if were all connected.
Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.