Tag Archives: cyber criminals

Put BitDefender Safego Between You And Facebook, Twitter Scammers

It’s an awesome summer day here, and the sum-sum-summer time lazies have gotten a stranglehold on my motivation to stay connected. Since it won’t be all that long until it’s back to snowstorms and blizzards, today is a day to just hang out, crash in the sunshine – and maybe pour a jar or two – or three.   Smile

So, in order to assuage my guilt somewhat (feeling guilty over disconnecting from the Internet – who knew?), I though I’d rerun a post from August of last year – BitDefender Safego – A Free Social Network Cyber Criminal Defense System – since, it’s as timely now, as it was then.

imageNo matter my own thoughts on Facebook and Twitter (which are not entirely positive), it’s impossible to ignore the impact social networking has had on how we communicate.

It’s hardly surprising then, that Facebook and Twitter, and sites like them, have proven to be the perfect channel for cyber criminals to “communicate” with potential victims.

In the past hour alone, over 25,000 articles dealing with Facebook malware have been posted to the Net – as the following screen capture indicates. Ponder on that – 25,000 articles dealing with Facebook malware in one hour! That number certainly reaches the threshold of what I consider an epidemic.

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Just for a reference point – the “any time” total, using the same search string, is 44 Million results.

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My usual skeptical observation:

You might think, given those numbers, that a typical social network user would take minimum precautions to ensure that their privacy, and computer system security, are protected against compromise by employing a sound safety strategy. But no, typical social network users’ are #####, ********, !!!!!!!!!! , ………… Unfortunately, given that this is a G rated blog, I’ll have to leave the expletives deleted.

Still, for the sake of fairness, I will note – cyber criminal craftiness should not be underestimated. The video below is just one example of how an unaware user can be misled; leading to a perfect storm of malware issues.

Click on the following graphic to play the video.

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There is no perfect safety solution in an open system like Facebook, or Twitter – but, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the likelihood that cyber criminals will successfully disrupt your piece of mind.

A few months ago, Bitdefender released a free application – Safego for Facebook- which has just been updated to offer the same level of protection to Twitter users. If you are a Twitter or Facebook users, I urge you to checkout this free application.

From the Bitdefender site:

Bitdefender Safego for Facebook:

Using in-the-cloud scanning, Bitdefender Safego protects your social network account from all sorts of e-trouble: scams, spam, malware and private data exposure. But, most importantly, Safego keeps your online friends safe and …close.

By installing the BitDefender Safego app, users will receive:

Privacy protection – users are warned when they should modify their Facebook privacy settings so personal information isn’t exposed

Automatic scanning –users simply press the “scan now” button to get a snapshot of their Facebook security status

24/7 protection– Facebook accounts are protected even when users are not logged in to Facebook

Protection for friends – users will have the ability to warn their friends about infected links in their Facebook accounts

Bitdefender Safego for Twitter:

Initially launched for Facebook users, Bitdefender Safego is now ready to protect Twitter accounts as well. Bitdefender Safego uses the Bitdefender antimalware and antiphishing engines to scan URLs in the cloud.

Bitdefender Safego keeps your Twitter account safe by:

Checking unknown users before you follow them
Checking the accounts you are following
Scanning your direct messages for spam, suspicious links or highjacking attempts.

See BitDefender Safego in action on YouTube.

BitDefender Safego dashboard shown below.

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For additional information on BitDefender Safego, please visit the BitDefender Safego app page on Facebook, or the app page on Twitter.

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Filed under BitDefender, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, FaceBook, Freeware, Malware Protection, Twitter

BitDefender Safego – A Free Social Network Cyber Criminal Defense System

imageNo matter my own thoughts on Facebook and Twitter (which are not entirely positive), it’s impossible to ignore the impact social networking has had on how we communicate.

It’s hardly surprising then, that Facebook and Twitter, and sites like them, have proven to be the perfect channel for cyber criminals to “communicate” with potential victims.

In the past hour alone, over 25,000 articles dealing with Facebook malware have been posted to the Net – as the following screen capture indicates. Ponder on that – 25,000 articles dealing with Facebook malware in one hour! That number certainly reaches the threshold of what I consider an epidemic.

image

Just for a reference point – the “any time” total, using the same search string, is 44 Million results.

image

My usual skeptical observation:

You might think, given those numbers, that a typical social network user would take minimum precautions to ensure that their privacy, and computer system security, are protected against compromise by employing a sound safety strategy. But no, typical social network users’ are #####, ********, !!!!!!!!!! , ………… Unfortunately, given that this is a G rated blog, I’ll have to leave the expletives deleted.

Still, for the sake of fairness, I will note – cyber criminal craftiness should not be underestimated. The video below is just one example of how an unaware user can be misled; leading to a perfect storm of malware issues.

Click on the following graphic to play the video.

image

There is no perfect safety solution in an open system like Facebook, or Twitter – but, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the likelihood that cyber criminals will successfully disrupt your piece of mind.

A few months ago, Bitdefender released a free application – Safego for Facebook- which has just been updated to offer the same level of protection to Twitter users. If you are a Twitter or Facebook users, I urge you to checkout this free application.

From the Bitdefender site:

Bitdefender Safego for Facebook:

Using in-the-cloud scanning, Bitdefender Safego protects your social network account from all sorts of e-trouble: scams, spam, malware and private data exposure. But, most importantly, Safego keeps your online friends safe and …close.

By installing the BitDefender Safego app, users will receive:

Privacy protection – users are warned when they should modify their Facebook privacy settings so personal information isn’t exposed

Automatic scanning –users simply press the “scan now” button to get a snapshot of their Facebook security status

24/7 protection – Facebook accounts are protected even when users are not logged in to Facebook

Protection for friends – users will have the ability to warn their friends about infected links in their Facebook accounts

Bitdefender Safego for Twitter:

Initially launched for Facebook users, Bitdefender Safego is now ready to protect Twitter accounts as well. Bitdefender Safego uses the Bitdefender antimalware and antiphishing engines to scan URLs in the cloud.

Bitdefender Safego keeps your Twitter account safe by:

Checking unknown users before you follow them
Checking the accounts you are following
Scanning your direct messages for spam, suspicious links or highjacking attempts.

See BitDefender Safego in action on YouTube.

BitDefender Safego dashboard shown below.

image

For additional information on BitDefender Safego, please visit the BitDefender Safego app page on Facebook, or the app page on Twitter.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, BitDefender, Cyber Criminals, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, FaceBook, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety Tools, Malware Protection, Software, Twitter

Scareware Is Everywhere – As Mac Users Just Found Out

The success cyber criminals have had with the recent Mac scareware attack (MacDefender, which has already morphed into a new variant – MacGuard), emphasizes the following point – given the opportunity, Mac users may be just as likely as Windows users to say “Yes” to an invitation to download a rogue security application.

Considering Apple’s marketing style, which reinforces the myth that Macs are inherently more resistant to malware infections than Windows PCs (bolstered by the cachet that Mac users are somehow smarter than PC users), I suspect that Mac users are in for a rough ride in the coming months. Undoubtedly, Mac users will learn that cyber criminals use of social engineering is not platform specific.

Hopefully, this reality check will put a stop to nonsensical forum comments like the following.

“Well this is why I’m glad to have a Mac just saying”

“If Windows didn’t exist these things wouldn’t happen to people”

Since myths tend to die a slow and painful death however, I somehow doubt it.

Early last year, I posted an article – Say “Yes” on the Internet and Malware’s Gotcha! – which pointed out the potential consequences to those Internet users who instinctively, and unthinkingly, click on “Yes” or “OK”. Given the unprecedented rise in the number of malicious scareware applications in the interim (often, but not exclusively, promoted through poisoned Google search results), that article is worth reposting.

The following is an edited version of that earlier article.

It's not my fault Virtually every computer user, at both the home user level (my friends), and at the corporate level, whom I come into contact with, tends to downplay personal responsibility for a malware infection.

I hear a lot of – “I don’t know what happened”; “it must have been one of the kids”; “all I did was download a free app that told me I was infected”; “no, I never visit porn sites” or, Bart Simpson’s famous line “it wasn’t me”. Sort of like “the dog ate my homework”, response. But we old timers, (sorry, seasoned pros), know the reality is somewhat different, and here’s why.

Cybercriminals overwhelmingly rely on social engineering to create an opportunity designed to drop malicious code, including rootkits, password stealers, Trojan horses, and spam bots, on Internet connected computers.

In other words, cybercriminals rely on the user/potential victim saying – “YES”.

Yes to:

Downloading that security app that told you your machine was infected. Thereby, infecting your computer with a rogue security application.

Opening that email attachment despite the fact it has a .exe .vbs, or .lnk.extension, virtually guaranteeing an infection.

Downloading that media player codec to play a  porno clip, which still won’t play, but your computer is now infected.

Clicking on links in instant messaging (IM) that have no context, or are composed of only general text, which will result in your computer becoming part of a botnet.

Downloading executable software from web sites without ensuring that the site is reputable. Software that may contain a Browser Hijacker as part of the payload.

Opening email attachments from people you don’t know. At a minimum, you will now get inundated with Spam mail which will increase the changes of a malware infection.

There are many more opportunities for you to say “yes”, while connected to the Internet, but those listed above are some of the the most common.

The Internet is full of traps for the unwary – that’s a sad fact, and that’s not going to change any time soon. Cyber criminals are winning this game, and unless you learn to say “NO”, it’s only a matter of time until you have to deal with a malware infected machine.

Here’s an example of a rogue security application getting ready to pounce. A progressively more common occurrence on the Internet.

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I can’t say this often enough. Ensure you have adequate knowledge to protect yourself and stay ahead of the cybercrime curve. Make a commitment to acquire the knowledge necessary to ensure your personal safety on the Internet. In a word, become  “educated”.

If you lack this knowledge the answer is simple – you can get it. The Internet is loaded with sites (including this one), dedicated to educating computer users on computer security – including providing application reviews, and links to appropriate security software solutions.

It’s important to be aware however, that security applications alone, will not ensure your safety on the Internet. You really do need to become proactive to your Internet safety and security. And that does mean becoming educated.

Internet users who are aware of significant changes in the Internet security landscape, will react accordingly. Unfortunately, experience has taught me that you can’t fix stupid.

Before you say “yes”

Stop – consider where you’re action might lead

Think – consider the consequences to your security

Click – only after making an educated decision to proceed

Consider this from Robert Brault:

“The ultimate folly is to think that something crucial to your welfare is being taken care of for you”.

I’ll put it more bluntly – If you get a malware infection; it’s virtually certain it’s your fault. You might think – here’s this smug, cynical guy, sitting in his office, pointing undeserved critical fingers. Don’t believe it.

If users followed advice posted here, and advice from other security pros, and high level users, the Internet could be a vastly different experience for many. At the very least, we might have half a chance of dealing more effectively with the cybercriminal element. To this point, we’re losing rather magnificently.

Computer users would be vastly better off if they considered Internet security advice, as a form of inoculation. It’s a relatively painless way to develop immunization. While inoculations can be mildly painful, the alternative can be a very painful experience.

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Filed under Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Internet Safety, internet scams, Mac, Malware Alert, Online Safety, Rogue Software, Safe Surfing, scareware, Windows Tips and Tools

Kate Middleton Nude – As If!

imageI’m an easy mark when it comes to pomp and circumstance, so like millions worldwide, I just finished watching the Royal Wedding. An impressive occasion, to say the least. Now, I need to relax and get over my Royal Wedding media hangover.

The media frenzy surrounding the wedding is likely to remain at a fever pitch far into the future however, as will the level of cyber criminal activity hooked on to Prince William and Kate Middleton. Hardly surprising, when one considers the size of the “market”. Scoping out  “the royal wedding” on Google returns an amazing 53 Million search results – and cyber crooks love a big market.

Cyber crooks don’t miss a trick when it comes to leveraging events surrounding popular personalities, and along with the usual schemes – inbox spam, phony search results, Twitter and Facebook misdirection …….., – Kate Middleton comment spam, as illustrated by the following examples posted here in the last few days, has not been neglected by these parasites.

The first:

kate middleton naked
easy-share.com/1914927081/Kate_Middleton_-_Nude_P…
Givliani@gmail.com
184.82.196.132 – Submitted on 2011/04/27 at 12:19 am

Clicking on the link leads to a 90 MB compressed download hosted at Easy Share. I have no doubt that downloading this file would lead to a very painful experience.

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The second:

This is actually my personal complete nude and semi-nude picture collection of Kate Middleton I collected over the last 10 weeks. http://www.megaupload.com/?d=8KKIJIWT Caution: Don’t leak this pack outside of this website or I will eliminate this comment and also chase you down to hell!

Clicking on this link leads to a similar 90 MB compressed download.

The third:

image

prince william wedding
netload.in/dateimQ5jcAXATn/Kate_Middleton_-_Nude_…
Kingwood@yahoo.com
69.162.162.130 – Submitted on 2011/04/27 at 12:19 am

Download and view this entire pic series of Kate Middleton along with pretty much all the unclothed as well as naughty images one can locate on the world wide web. http://www.fileserve.com/file/xnj2k2Q Caution: Don’t leak this pack outside of this site or I will delete this post and hunt you down to hell!

A similar set up – clicking on the link leads to a 90 MB compressed download.

image

If you’ve ever wondered why comments on this site, and many other sites for that matter, are held for moderation by a site administrator, the simple answer is – comment spam, as illustrated, can be extremely dangerous.

The amount of time required to effectively control comment spam is not insignificant. For example, since I first setup this site, I’ve dealt with over 55,000 spam comments.

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Conservatively, it takes 10 seconds to check each spam comment (spam filters are not perfect) – that amounts to 152 hours, or 4 plus weeks, of wasted time. Needless to say – I consider comment spammers to be far down on the human evolutionary scale.

Same old – same old:

Be cautious when following links contained in comments on any web site.

Be particularly cautious of comments, on any web site, where the writer is describing a problem with recommended software and offers a link to alternative software.  This is a favorite technique employed by cyber-criminals.

Be cautious when following any link contained in any web site, since the latest reports indicate there are 5.8 million individual web pages infected across 640,000 compromised websites. Cyber-criminals are finding it easier than ever to inject malicious content into legitimate sites.

Be cautious following links on web forums. Forums can often be a source of dangerous links.

Since the majority of infected sites are infected with Java based scripts, consider using Firefox with the NoScript add-on active. NoScript offers superior protection.

Install an Internet Browser add-on that provides protection against questionable or unsafe websites. My personal favorite is Web of Trust, an Internet Explorer/Firefox add-on, that offers substantial protection against questionable, or unsafe websites.

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Filed under Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Freeware, internet scams, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Alert, Online Safety, Software, spam, Windows Tips and Tools

March 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report – Rustock Goes Down, Bagle Botnet Picks Up The Slack

imageThere’s been much more discussion recently as to whether infected computers should be allowed unrestricted access to the Internet. Despite the fact we’ve been around the horn on this question for years, there’s still little consensus on this thorny issue.

Since infected computers, linked together in botnets, form the backbone of spam distribution networks – according to the March 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report, botnets sent an average of 88.2% of global spam during 2010 – this question needs to be taken off the back burner and dealt with much more aggressively.

Frankly, I’m tired of making excuses for people who are too damn lazy, too damn stupid, too damn inconsiderate, ………. to take the time to learn the basics of computer security. And, as a consequence cause me, and you incidentally, to have to deal with volumes of spam that are beyond the pale.

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Graphic courtesy of Symantec (Click to expand to original)

According to the March 2011, MessageLabs Intelligence Report (released yesterday), the recently taken down Rustock botnet “had been sending as many as 13.82 billion spam emails daily, accounting for an average of 28.5% of global spam sent from all botnets in March.”

A little math suggests, that during March enough Spam was emailed that conceivably, every person on the Planet received 7 spam emails EVERY DAY! Since every person on the Planet is not connected, the abuse takes on another magnitude. I can’t think of another finite resource – and the Internet is a finite resource – that could be continuously abused in this way, without some kind of strong kickback.

Are we making any headway against botnets and the cyber criminals behind them? Not according to the MessageLabs Intelligence Report we’re not. Sure, Rustock has bitten the dust (at least for the moment), but the Bagle botnet has stepped into the breech, bumped up its output, and is now sending 8.31 billion spam emails each day, mostly tied to pharmaceutical products.

Report highlights:

Spam: In March 2011, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources decreased by 2 percent (1 in 1.26 emails).

Viruses: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 208.9 emails (0.479 percent) in March, an increase of .134 percentage points since February. In March, 63.4 percent of email-borne malware contained links to malicious websites, a decrease of .1 percentage points since February.

Endpoint Threats: The endpoint is often the last line of defense and analysis. The threats found here can shed light on the wider nature of threats confronting businesses, especially from blended attacks. Attacks reaching the endpoint are likely to have already circumvented other layers of protection that may already be deployed, such as gateway filtering.

Phishing: In March, phishing activity was 1 in 252.5 emails (0.396 percent), a decrease of 0.065 percentage points since February.

Web security: Analysis of web security activity shows that an average of 2,973 websites each day were harbouring malware and other potentially unwanted programs including spyware and adware, a decrease of 27.5% since February. 37 percent of malicious domains blocked were new in March, a decrease of 1.9 percentage points since February. Additionally, 24.5 percent of all web-based malware blocked was new in March, a decrease of 4.2 percentage points since last month.

Reading this type of report (or at least the highlights), is certainly educational, and can be a major step in expanding that sense of threat awareness that active Internet users’ require.

The full MLI Report is available here in PDF.

Symantec’s MessageLabs Intelligence is a respected source of data and analysis for messaging security issues, trends and statistics. MessageLabs Intelligence provides a range of information on global security threats based on live data feeds from control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world. Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available at www.symantec.com.

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Filed under bots, Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, email scams, Interconnectivity, MessageLabs, spam, Symantec, Windows Tips and Tools

Weak Password Control – A Self Inflicted Injury

imageOver the weekend, Gawker.com was attacked, leading to a compromise of some 1.5 million user login credentials on Gawker owned sites, including Gizmodo, and Lifehacker.

According to Gawker Media

Our user databases appear to have been compromised. The passwords were encrypted. But simple ones may be vulnerable to a brute-force attack. You should change your Gawker password and on any other sites on which you’ve used the same passwords.

In an ironic twist to this tale of woe, it turns out that Nick Denton, the site’s founder, had not followed his own advice and in fact, used the same password for his Google Apps account, his Twitter account, and others.

So what gives? Why would someone with the supposed technical competence of Denton be so boneheaded? I suspect it’s because the reality is – he’s no different than any typical user when it comes to establishing and enforcing proper password control. A lackadaisical effort is the norm.

I understand the the dilemma. Complicated, in other words, safe passwords are hard to remember, whereas easy passwords, in other words unsafe passwords, are easy to remember. And, a single password is surely easier to remember than a series of passwords, simple or not. No surprise then, that most computer users’ employ a single, easy to remember, and consequently – unsafe password.

So what’s a user to do to avoid this critical security lapse? Well, you could follow the most common advice you’re likely to find when it comes to password control, and install a “password safe” – an application designed to store and retrieve password.

The Internet is full of advice that on the face of it seems reasonable, responsible and accurate. You know how it is – if you hear it often enough then it must be true. In my view, the password safe advice falls into this category.

Let me pose this question – you wouldn’t hang your keys outside your front door, would you? Of course you wouldn’t. Then why would you save passwords on the Internet, or on your computer? If there is one computer truism that is beyond dispute, it’s this – any computer application can be hacked, including password safes.

I have never saved passwords online, or on a local machine. Instead, I write my passwords down, and record them in a special book; a book which I keep ultra secure. There are some who disagree, for many reasons, with this method of password control, but I’m not about to change my mind on this issue.

I know that on the face of it, writing down your password seems counter intuitive, and flies in the face of conventional wisdom, since the issue here is one of security and safety.

But, ask yourself this question – is your home, office, wallet etc., more secure than your computer? If the answer isn’t “yes”, then you have additional issues that need to be addressed.

While it may be true that you don’t want your wife, lover, room mate, or the guy in the next office, to gain access to your written list of passwords – and writing down your passwords will always present this risk; the real risk lies in the cyber-criminal, who is perhaps, thousands of miles away.

Computer security involves a series of trade-offs – that’s just the reality of today’s Internet. And that brings us to the inescapable conclusion, that strong passwords, despite the fact that they may be impossible to remember – which means they must be written down – are considerably more secure than those that are easy to remember.

Here are some guidelines on choosing a strong password:

Make sure your password contains a minimum of 8 characters.

Use upper and lower case, punctuation marks and numbers.

Use a pass phrase (a sentence), if possible. However, not all sites allow pass phrases.

Since brute force dictionary attacks are common, keep away from single word passwords that are words in a dictionary.

Use a different password for each sign-in site. This should be easy since you are now going to write down your passwords. Right?

You are entitled, of course to disregard the advice in this article, and look at alternatives to writing down your passwords, including Password Safe, a popular free application. As well, a number of premium security applications include password managers.

Interestingly, Bruce Schneier, perhaps the best known security guru and a prime mover, some years back, behind the development of  Password Safe, is now an advocate of – you guessed it; writing down your passwords.

If you have difficulty in devising a strong password/s, take a look at Random.org’s, Random Password Generator – a very cool free password tool.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Online Safety, Password Control, Software, System Security, Windows Update

BitDefender Study – Your Facebook and Twitter Link Clicking Habits Suck!

imageEarlier this month, I wrote an article Twitter, Tweets, Cyber-Criminals And You, in which I set out the potential security pitfalls associated with Facebook and Twitter, and described the type of wonky security behavior (based on personal anecdotal evidence), generally demonstrated by social networking users.

Realistically, one of the problems in using anecdotal evidence is – while the conclusion may be true, (in this case it is true), it doesn’t always follow directly from the evidence.

A few days ago, when BitDefender passed along the results of its new study on Facebook and Twitter users’ link clicking habits, which revealed that 97% of respondents will click on links shared within social networks without checking them for malware, which confirmed my anecdotal evidence, I must admit, I got that “Cheshire Cat” grin.

A quick overview of the test methodology:

BitDefender created Facebook and Twitter test profiles and built a circle of 1,900 friends interested in reading about the latest news from various domains covering an assortment of hot topics such as accidents, security news, entertainment industry news, and scientific discoveries.

In the span of one week, three URLs leading to malware were shortened and modified to make the malicious pages unavailable and harmless, then sent out to the list of friends.

Despite countless awareness campaigns aimed at  warning users about the possible dangers behind shortened links, ninety-seven percent of the test profile’s friends admitted to clicking the bad links.

More details on this study are available at MalwareCity.com

I’m by no means a luddite when it comes to social networking sites; quite the opposite in fact. On balance, social networking is a good thing – it’s opened new doorways of opportunity to stay connected.

But here’s the rub – with those positive opportunities, comes a new set of opportunities for cyber-criminals. So now, more than ever,  social network users need to be aware of the risks. And, quite obviously, reassess their link clicking practices.

If you are a Facebook user, you can you can increase your safety margin by using the free BitDefender safego application designed to keep social network accounts from being exposed to malware, and spam.

Update: Cosme, brought to my attention that there is a Firefox add-on designed to expand shortened URLs – Xpnd.it!

From the Mozilla site: Automagicallly expand and analyze any tiny URL so to avoid clicking on potentially harmful, malicious links! It supports more than 500 services and it is very fast, thanks to local caching plus three layers of remote caching on the server-side. Download here.

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Filed under BitDefender, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, FaceBook, Internet Safety, Online Safety, Reports, social networking, Social Networks, Twitter, Windows Tips and Tools