According to Sophos, 60 percent of businesses consider Facebook the riskiest social networking site, underscoring a new level of wariness for social networks at a time when a researcher from Kaspersky Lab says compromised accounts for Twitter and other sites can go for big bucks in the cyber-underworld.
Businesses are growing more concerned about the use of social networks, starting with Facebook.According to a survey of 502 IT professionals by Sophos, businesses are
seeing more malware and spam, and 60 percent of respondents put Facebook ahead of MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn as the riskiest social networking site. The statistics, which were included in Sophos' "Security Threat Report: 2010" (PDF), revealed that while 33 percent block Facebook for productivity reasons,
businesses are also concerned with the prospect of spam, malware and
data leakage on social networks.
"Furthermore, over 72 percent of firms believe that employees' behavior on social networking sites could
endanger their business's security," according to the report. "This has
increased from 66 percent in the previous study (in April). The number of
businesses that were targets for spam, phishing and malware via social
networking sites increased dramatically, with spam showing the sharpest
rise from 33.4 percent in April to 57 percent in December. This highlights a surge in
exploitation of such sites by spammers."
While just 21 percent of the respondents in the April survey said they
or their colleagues had received malware via a social networking site,
that percentage increased to more than a third in December.
When it comes to Facebook in particular, 45 percent of respondents said
they do not control access to the site. However, Sophos Senior Technology Consultant Graham Cluley said seven
percent did so due to fears of data leaks, while 11 percent
controlled access because of malware concerns."There have been a variety of malware attacks via social networks - but
Koobface is the Godfather," Cluley said. "There have been many
different versions of Koobface, and it has become steadily more
sophisticated - attacking a wider variety of social networks and
becoming much cleverer in the way that it operates."Users of social networks can also face a more indirect risk - attackers using the sites to conduct surveillance on
potential victims and ultimately compromise them. A spokesman for
McAfee said this method is believed to have been used in recent cyber-attacks, with
attackers moving "a degree away from their ultimate target and hitting
someone in their circle of friends...(before) moving in on the target
assuming the identity of a friend of colleague.""Undoubtedly a large part of the incentive of social networking attacks
is to compromise the victim's machine and infect it with malware that
turns it into part of a bot," Cluley said. "As such it can be spied
upon (and personal information stolen) as well as abused to send
spam/spread malware etc."As
such, compromised accounts can have real value on the black market.
According to Dmitry Bestuzhev, senior regional researcher for Latin America at
Kaspersky Lab, said recently a Twitter account was seen being offered
for $1,000 on a hacker forum. In the hands of cyber-criminals, the
accounts can be used to spam out malicious links that lead to malware
infections, he said."Many tweets today come with URLs and not just clear text URLs, but short URLs,"
he said. "Really few followers check first what's behind each link,
they trust the content and they click any link in a tweet. This is a
perfect opportunity for the criminals to infect more people, doing it
fast and without any suspicion."The more followers a person has, the more potential victims there are, he added."If
it's a Trojan.Banker or Trojan.PSW or Trojan.Spy family, any and all
money-related passwords may be stolen and of course, it becomes money
for the criminals," he said. "Of course, if they can now steal another
Twitter account they can infect more and more people. In other words,
it's a kind of pyramid- they would infect followers of an infected
follower of the initial Twitter accounts."