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How can you stay safe on social networks? An interview with Kaspersky Labs

Love them or hate them, social networks are incredibly popular ways of staying in touch with your friends and co-workers, but are they secure? According to experts at Kaspersky labs, it could be the users that make them easy targets for cyber crime.

Almost all of us rely on social networks to keep in touch with friends, find out what our favourite celebrities are up to and follow breaking news, but they can also be a haven for malware, identity theft and cyber-crime. We spoke to David Jacoby, one of Kaspersky Labs’ Senior Security Researchers, who explained that social networking isn’t as safe as we might think.

Traditionally, viruses and other malware have taken the form of direct attacks that looked for unsecured computers to infect. This is still the case with social networks, but it’s also just the start of potential threats to be aware of. “We know there’s malicious code, we know that there’s phishing attacks and all these other technical vulnerabilities,” explains Jacoby, “but for some reason, it’s still a security nightmare.”

Facebook is definitely the most popular social network, with over one quarter of all Europeans having an account. “Facebook is mostly for entertainment, where you upload your photos,” so its users are often lax about security. There are plenty of privacy options within Facebook’s settings pages, but people are so keen to update their status and check up on friends that they are ignoring these basic safety features.

Facebook privacy settings
Many users have never even looked at Facebook’s default security settings

“Right now, we aren’t seeing a major increase in malware targeting social media. We know they are out there, but we’re now seeing a trend where attackers are exploiting ignorance, where people are so keen to get onto social networks that they are willing to jeopardise security. They don’t care if they connect to an unencrypted Wi-Fi. They don’t care if someone can eavesdrop or shoulder-surf while they are on Facebook, just as long as they get online.”

Even though it contains some personal information, there’s only so much to be gained from controlling someone’s Facebook account. Twitter, despite having a massive audience, isn’t incredibly desirable for hackers either, as there’s little to be gained in the way of personal information. Instead, it’s business-focused social network LinkedIn. “LinkedIn is for linking to other people, putting up your CV, your resume and making business contacts.” With this amount of information, LinkedIn could be a relative goldmine for a potential hacker.

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