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Poor Security and Social Networkers

Surveys Highlight Poor Security Precautions of Social Networkers

Though They Say They Are Concerned About ID Theft; Few Take Steps to Protect Themselves

September 2nd, 2009 Phillip Britt

A pair of reports released at the end of August highlight the lack of care that a large percentage of people take when engaging in online social networking.

According to the Bringing Social Security to the Online Community poll, conducted by the Chief Marketing Officer Council and software firm AVG, while the majority of social networking users are afflicted by Web-based security problems, less than one third are taking actions to protect themselves online.

The case highlights a important elements when it comes to identify theft – everyone, no matter how careful, is a target. And, importantly, quickly taking the proper steps can minimize or even eliminate the loss of identity or money.

Poll participants indicated concern over growing phishing, spam and malware attacks, and nearly half of those surveyed are very concerned about their personal identity being stolen in an online community, according to the CMO Council.

The survey was conducted online during the second quarter of 2009 and gathered responses from a random sampling of more than 250 consumers.

According to the poll results, despite widespread use (86 percent) of social networks at home and at work, most fail to perform the following basic security measures on a regular basis:

■Changing passwords (64 percent infrequently or never).
■Adjusting privacy settings (57 percent infrequently or never).
■Informing their social network administrator (90 percent infrequently or never).

Perhaps even more telling, or more alarming, are the following poll findings:

■Twenty-one percent accept contact offerings from members they don’t recognize.
■More than half let acquaintances or roommates access social networks on their machines.
■Sixty-four percent click on links offered by community members or contacts.
■Twenty-six percent share files within social networks.
■Nearly 20 percent have experienced identity theft.
■Forty-seven percent have been victims of malware infections.
■Fifty-five percent have seen phishing attacks.

“As social networking populations grow globally and the proliferation of niche social networks and mobile offerings extends the reach of social communities, the threats and vulnerabilities are escalating accordingly,” said Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, upon release of the findings. “More frequent breaches and outbreaks on popular social sites are a testament to the need for a more preventative mindset and threat-alert culture among community users.”

The poll findings echo similar identity issues discovered in a survey of 2,092 social media users by British-based Legal & General.

Nearly four in ten, (38 percent) of users of sites such as Facebook and Twitter have posted status updates detailing their holiday plans and a third have posted status updates saying that they are away for the weekend. Coupled with the finding that an alarmingly high proportion of users are prepared to be “friends” online with people they don’t really know, this presents a serious risk to the security of people’s home and contents, Legal & General, an insurance firm, said in it’s report, The Digital Criminal.

The report found that 23 percent of social media users have discussed holiday plans “wall-to-wall” – outside the privacy of their own page – and 17 percent of users reported seeing people’s residential addresses posted on pages that can be seen by strangers.

Legal & General’s research confirmed that a large proportion of users use social media sites to connect with people who are essentially strangers: 79 percent think they are a great way to track down people they “met on holiday,” 75 percent feel that they are a good way to meet “friends of friends,” and nearly half like to use sites to meet new people based only on the person having a nice picture.

Other findings:

■Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents have no worries about the security or privacy of social networking sites.
■Of all social networking sites, Facebook creates the most concern with 46 percent of respondents feeling that there are some security and privacy risks.
■Thirty-four percent of respondents have seen somebody else’s phone number posted on their social networking profile.
■Nearly one in ten, (9 percent) of respondents have included their own phone number and 5 percent have included their address in the personal information section of social networking sites visible to friends.
■Some people are sharing mobile numbers and addresses directly with strangers: 6 percent have written their phone number and 3 percent have written their address “wall-to-wall” or on pages open to those who are not accepted contacts.
■Men are more blasé about personal information – 13 percent have included their mobile number on their profile compared with just 7 percent of women and 9 percent of men have included their address compared with just 4 percent of women.



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