Sophos points to social networking threats

Darren Allan

January 19, 2011

Security firm Sophos has released its annual Security Threat Report, detailing what happened in the world of malware and phishing in 2010.

One of the most interesting discoveries is the continual increase in scams targeted at social networks, a pretty inevitable upsurge given the huge popularity of Facebook.

Sophos questioned social network users as to whether they had experienced spam, phishing or malware attacks on the sites. In December 2009, the percentages of those who had were 57%, 30% and 36% respectively.

In December 2010, the levels were up to 67%, 43% and 40% respectively, a substantial increase in spam and phishing, although a more modest one in terms of malware.

Sophos noted that it spotted some 95,000 pieces of malware every day in 2010. As well as social network threats, the company said fake anti-virus software was one of the more persistent threats of the year, along with Black Hat SEO, poisoning search engine results to drive rogue sites up the rankings. Google reported that 1.3% of its search results were infected.

Sophos also noted improvements which could be made for the future to strengthen levels of security, including attention to proper password security (not having “123456” as your password, and not using the same password across multiple sites).

Again, social networks came in for attention, with warnings to be cautious and look out for rogue apps on Facebook, and a word about privacy settings. Sophos advocates a switch to an “opt-in” approach to privacy for all content, whereby users would have to specifically mark any details they wish to share, rather than having to hide what they don’t want to share.

Of course, that would lead to a lot less information sharing by default, which isn’t in Facebook’s interest on an overall level.


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