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Forget Trojan horses, social media is your biggest security threat

Scared about your online identity being compromised through Facebook or Google’s clingy online presences? You’d probably be less happy about those you don’t know about. I’m referring to those who used to spam your inbox or infect your PC with trojans and the like. Those are old school though. With the tech scene moving at such a fast pace — becoming more device and cloud-orientated, malware and cyber-thieves are doing well in trying to stay ahead of the curve.

As shown in Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report, social media attacks have increased with Fake Offerings being the most popular trick in the book. People are encouraged to “join an event or group” and “Click here for a US$100 gift card” in exchange for personal information that are then used against them. This accounts for 52% of all social media attacks. The most popular sites are Facebook, Twitter and “fast-growing sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr.”

The most interesting form of attack is Lifejacking, urging you to “Like” a link or post on a website while in reality you’re installing malware on to your PC. “The malware then post updates on your newsfeed, spreading the attack.” One example I’ve seen in my newsfeed went like this “[SHOCK] At 17, she did THIS in public high school, EVERY day! Outrageous?” Showing a picture of a girl’s bum wearing extremely tight jeans and tempting users to follow the link. Only to be reposted on your timeline, and the spam/ scam cycle continues.

When it comes to your mobile, you’ll most likely want to beef up security as well. Many businesses urge employees to use their phones. So malware pose a threat to both you and your business. As the report notes, 2012 saw a 58% increase in mobile malware families compared to 2011. While Android maintains more than 70 percent market share, has a more open platform and has multiple distribution methods, its OS is more vulnerable. This will “make it the go-to platform of malware authors.” As this Symantec report states, “thirty-two percent of all mobile malware steals information from the compromised device.”

Ironically though, Android users usually “allow installation of non-Market applications” when they tick the “Unknown sources” option in their settings menu. This is so that you can install third-party apps. The second most used platform, iOS on the other hand, suffer most attacks when the devices have been jailbroken (allowing foreign software applications to be installed and bypassing authorisation).

Best is not to jailbreak your phone so that you can play the newest pirate copy of the newest game. Stay wary about special offers like out-of-the-blue tax payouts and spread the word when it comes to spam and scams. Also stay up-to-date with your security software.

Author | Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter
Jacques grew up in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Keen to take over the world, one word at a time, he has always been interested in both politics and development and studied International Relations (BA) at Stellenbosch University. With an interest in innovation and social change, he seeks to tell the... More

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