This is the first in a three-part series that covers the security of social networking and what it means to you.
In part 2, I’ll explain how you can become compromised. In part 3, I’ll explain how to protect yourself. The goal is to get you thinking about what you do online and how you do it.
A majority of the people reading this blog also use some form of social networking, according to Nielsen. I also want you to consider the following statements taken directly from the Facebook site:
- More than 500 million active users.
- Users install 20 million applications every day.
- Since social plug-ins launched in April, an average of 10,000 new websites integrate with Facebook every day.
- Entrepreneurs and developers from more than 190 countries build with Facebook Platform.
- Average user has 130 friends.
- People spend more than 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook.
- More than 200 million active users access Facebook through mobile devices.
You’re not really shocked by this information are you?
Oh, wait. You were probably checking a tweet that just came in via that new app you just downloaded onto your smartphone. Or perhaps you might have been planting a batch of new crops on Farmville. You really weren’t paying attention, were you?
The point is this: A lot of people are using social networks and the resources offered by them. I’ve shown statistics only for Facebook. But what other social networks can you immediately name? Now add all those together. That’s millions and millions of unsuspecting users. Oh, my! And there they are, sitting vulnerable just like Dorothy was when she was attacked by flying monkeys.
Let me ask a few questions:
- Do you use a computer — or smartphone — for managing finances online?
- Do you use apps from any social-networking sites (i.e. games on Facebook)?
- Do you own a smartphone and have apps on it?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you are at risk.
Risk from what, you ask?
I define risk as the potential loss resulting from the balance of threats, vulnerabilities, countermeasures and value. Usually it is a monetary loss. Think of it like this:
- Threat: A bad guy or hacker who wants your money.
- Vulnerability: Something you do or have on your system that invites bad guys.
- Countermeasures: Antivirus software (stuff like that).
- Value: Your money, credit, information and identity.
Perhaps you think you’re safe. You have the latest antivirus package installed, along with malware/spyware protection and a fully patched computer. You only connect to online banking sites via SSL, so you know you are 100 percent safe.
Think again, grasshopper.
One last thing: Do you have any sort of security protection on your smartphone?
Mike Wright is a corporate faculty member at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.