Cyber-criminals targeting social networks: experts

Jul 30, 2009 by Virginie Grognou
Campus Party, the world's biggest on-line electronic entertainment festival in Valencia. Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites are inceasingly being targeted by cyber-criminals drawn to the wealth of personal information supplied by users, experts warn

Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites are inceasingly being targeted by cyber-criminals drawn to the wealth of personal information supplied by users, experts warn.

Data posted on the sites -- name, date of birth, address, job details, email and phone numbers -- is a windfall for hackers, participants at Campus Party, one of the world's biggest gatherings of Internet enthusiasts, said.

A vicious virus Koobface -- "koob" being "book" in reverse -- has affected thousands and Twitter users since August 2008, said Asier Martinez, a security specialist at global IT solutions provider Panda Security.

"Its spread has been very significant and it has been detected in 4,000 different variants," he told AFP at the week-long event which wraps up Sunday in Valencia in eastern Spain.

The virus hijacks the accounts of social networking site users and sends messages steering friends to hostile sites coontaining malware, a often designed to infiltrate a computer system for illicit purposes.

In one of its variants, Koobface sends the victim a warning that its Flash player is outdated along with an invitation to download a new version, which is is in fact the virus.

Malware can be used to steal bank account data or credit card information once installed on a personal computer.

Facebook has sought to resist attacks by Koobface and similar viruses by blocking links to hostile sites and shutting down accounts from users that show signs of infection, such as sending too many messages.

"You also must be very careful with people who ask to join your friends list," said Laura Garcia, who writes a popular blog about Internet security, adding that hackers often sent requests.

Another danger of are the popular quizzes, horoscopes and games made available for free to users which can sometimes be used to hide links to hostile sites, she added.

Birthday greetings and well as messages sent at Christmas and other holidays may also appear to come from friends when in fact they are linked directly to sites that try to convince would-be victims to reveal personal information like passwords or bank numbers, said Martinez.

The vulnerability of social networking sites was underscored in a study by security company Sophos made public earlier this month.

It found that about half of all companies un the United States block some or all access to them due to concerns about cyber incursions via the sites.

Facebook says that less than one percent of its users have been affected by a security issue, such as a virus, since the site opened in 2004.

Garcia said the number of viruses detected in recent years has exploded while the profile of has changed.

"Before it was very savvy teenagers who wanted to show off their computer skills. Now you don't really need to know much about information technology to be a hacker, all the tools have already been created," she said.

Real cyber-crime mafias have now taken over, especially in Russia, China Brazil and the Ukraine whose goals are purely economic gain, she said, underscoring that hacking could be highly lucrative.

For an initial investment of 1,500 dollars (1,050 euros) for Mpack, a programme created to infect web pages, hackers can obtain a profit of between 21,000 and 847,000 dollars in just one month, Martinez said.

Around 6,000 people are expected to attend the Campus Party, which unites participants from all over the world to share ideas, experiences and all types of activities related to computers, communications and new technology.

The annual event began in Spain in 1997. Editions of the event have since been held in Brazil and Colombia.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Study shows role of media in sharing life events

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cyber-crooks targeting social-networking websites

Mar 03, 2009

Computer security specialists warn that Facebook users have been hit with a series of data-stealing attacks in the past week as cyber crooks increasingly stalk social-networking websites.

Facebook fights 'phishing' scam

May 01, 2009

Facebook Thursday said it has blocked a link at the heart of a "phishing" scam being used to dupe members into revealing passwords to accounts at the social networking website.

Evite rival Socializr launches events aggregator

Apr 15, 2009

(AP) -- Socializr, the online invitations startup from Friendster founder Jonathan Abrams, now helps users manage their events from sites like Facebook, MySpace, Evite and Meetup.

Cyber criminals cloak their tracks

Feb 13, 2008

The 2007 X-Force Security report from IBM finds a disturbing rise in the sophistication of attacks by criminals on Web browsers worldwide. According to IBM, by attacking the browsers of computer users, cyber criminals are ...

Computer forensics links internet postcards to virus

Jul 25, 2009

Fake Internet postcards circulating through e-mail inboxes worldwide are carrying links to the virus known as Zeus Bot, said Gary Warner, director of computer forensics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Zeus ...

Recommended for you

Study shows role of media in sharing life events

14 hours ago

To share is human. And the means to share personal news—good and bad—have exploded over the last decade, particularly social media and texting. But until now, all research about what is known as "social sharing," or the ...

UK: Former reporter sentenced for phone hacking

21 hours ago

(AP)—A former British tabloid reporter was given a 10-month suspended prison sentence Thursday for his role in the long-running phone hacking scandal that shook Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

Evaluating system security by analyzing spam volume

21 hours ago

The Center for Research on Electronic Commerce (CREC) at The University of Texas at Austin is working to protect consumer data by using a company's spam volume to evaluate its security vulnerability through the SpamRankings.net ...

Surveillance a part of everyday life

22 hours ago

Details of casual conversations and a comprehensive store of 'deleted' information were just some of what Victoria University of Wellington students found during a project to uncover what records companies ...

European Central Bank hit by data theft

22 hours ago

(AP)—The European Central Bank said Thursday that email addresses and other contact information have been stolen from a database that serves its public website, though it stressed that no internal systems or market-sensitive ...

Twitter admits to diversity problem in workforce

Jul 24, 2014

(AP)—Twitter acknowledged Wednesday that it has been hiring too many white and Asian men to fill high-paying technology jobs, just like several other major companies in Silicon Valley.

User comments : 0