Do your users know about these social media hazards?

Most users in your company probably browse social networking sites at some point during the work day. But do they know how dangerous those sites can be?

Social networks are among the most popular places for spammers, scammers and hackers to go to find victims. Why is that? Because social networks are now the places web users spend the biggest chunk of their time online, according to a presentation by Daniel Peck of security firm Barracuda Labs at the recent Hacker Halted conference in Miami.

How dangerous are social networks for users? According to Peck’s data:

  1. One in 60 posts on Facebook contains spam or links to malicious content.
  2. One out of every 100 Twitter posts is spam or malware.
  3. Less than half (43%) of Twitter accounts are classified by Peck as “true” users — the rest include spambots or accounts used to conduct phishing scams or spread malware.
  4. Almost all (92%) of Facebook users have received spam on the site, 54% have gotten attempted phishing scams and 23% have received malware.

The other dangerous part of the web users need to be wary of: search engines. As Peck points out, malicious search results are rampant, even in searches for seemingly innocuous topics. According to his presentation:

  1. One out of every 1,000 search results is a link to a malicious web page.
  2. One in five search topics leads to malware.
  3. The most dangerous search phrase tested by Barracuda was “music video,” which linked to malware in 17% of its results.

Other searches that returned malware in at least 7% of the results included “Jenni J-Woww,” “NFL,” “mortgage,” “World Series” and “Abbey Road.”

The good news for IT professionals in charge of encouraging safe online activity while employees are at work: Despite popular belief, Peck’s research shows that users actually are concerned about online security. In fact, 92% of the users Barracuda surveyed said they’re concerned about social networking security. And 86% understand that their online behavior can threaten their employer’s security.

That means IT may have a chance to offer users tips on safe social networking and searching so they can turn those concerns into behavioral changes. For example, you can pass along the Facebook privacy and security tips listed here.

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