Earlier 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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