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As social networking attracts millions of new followers every month, the risk of virus attacks, account hijacks and spam continues to increase, warns KS Rajasekar.
There have been several instances of hackers exploiting social media networks exposing the flaws in the system. Back in April last year, Michael Mookey, a 17 year old student from New York, created a virus that sent automated tweets in thousands through a cross-site scripting vulnerability. Twitter acknowledged the attack but confirmed that no user-sensitive data was lost. Apparently, he meant no harm except to popularize his site, stalkdaily.
Last August, Twitter was shut down for a few hours when a person with malicious intent created a worm that caused Twitter servers to crash due to the enormous number of requests served on it. The same morning Facebook also confirmed that there was a similar attack but it affected only a part of the network. Technically called DDoS attacks these are caused by infected computers which are controlled by malicious parties who direct these systems to attack a particular site by sending tons of requests. This tends to paralyze networks and real users of the network experience slow downloads and timeouts. And in rare cases it shuts down the site temporarily.
In February 2008, Symantec Corp, a security company, noticed that hackers, mostly Chinese, were exploiting a flaw in the Internet Explorer plug-in used on MySpace. Users would get a spam mail that led to a fake log in page and if the user logged in the username and password would be stolen.
Over the years attackers have been becoming smarter in bypassing security systems on social media sites and launching attacks with impunity. Stories of ecommerce website owners getting mails threatening disclosure of sensitive user data if they don’t pay a ransom abound the online world. In May 2009, hackers broke into the Virginia government site and stole nearly 8 million patient records. And placed a note on the home page demanding a ransom of $10 M.
With millions connected to social media like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter, it poses a severe risk to personal details of users that resides on these networks.
There are also other issues concerning the technology of social networks which tend to put a code on the user’s PC or laptop and gather user location data. Such data of government officials, armed forces or celebrities could be exploited by hackers and potentially endanger their security.
The risk is not just from professional hackers, but from family and friends, as the poll by moneysupermarket.com reveals. Two third of those who took the poll felt their mail, Facebook or Twitter accounts had been hacked. 8 percent of them said that at some point in time they either hacked or thought about hacking their partner or friend’s account. Reasons were either they suspected the partner of having an affair or were just checking out on what friends were saying about them.
How can you protect your account?
You must not share login information with anyone.
Regularly change their passwords
Make the password tough to break
Don’t pass your password around
Social networking log in credentials must be different from your banking log in information.
Don’t click links on suspicious mails
Change passwords once a month
KS Rajasekar is the Director – Social Media at Impiger Technologies Read his quotes in The Hindu article Spammers hit Social Media