Sunday, February 6, 2011

Social Media Users to Watch Out as Gulf’s Cybercriminals Get Clever

Norton by Symantec takes steps to keep regional social media users safe in light of new threats to online security.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates –6th February 2011 – As we see the phenomenon of social media rise within the UAE with no sign of stopping, Norton by Symantec warns the region’s consumers of the dangers that lurk behind every click of the mouse, whether updating your status, adding a new photo or reading a comment from a friend. Norton recently identified social media identity theft as one of the top five cyberthreats facing consumers in the Middle East for 2011. With the importance ofsocial media growing exponentially and number of global corporations and retailers broadening their consumer engagement through these networks.

What are the dangers?

  • Think Before You Click - be wary of any unusual messages or requests from your friends online, contaminated URLs have become a key component of the cybercriminal’s artillery. Many links to videos or requests for money, including many that appear to come from friends, are fraudulent messages. Even if you don’t click on anything, just visiting a website can infect your computer with drive-by downloads being the most frequent way that malware is spread.

  • Location, Location - giving away your location is a potential ‘gateway’ that people should be aware of and think about. Depending on your privacy settings and how you post, if you share vacation plans through your status updates you could be advertising to thieves that your house will be empty on specific dates and ripe for burglary. As more people use their mobile or smartphones to connect to the Internet and technology changing so fast, many people may not even be aware of the various ways they’re opening themselves up to these kinds of threats.

  • Spam-tastic - we are seeing that spammers are adapting to all kinds of different platforms.  Social networks are the latest to be targeted with illegitimate users generating fake events as a tool to creating spam messages. Users can create and promote individual events - including text, images, and links – and then send these invitations to all of their friends. The host of an event can even send update messages to all the invited people, regardless of whether they actually responded to it or not, meaning that the attacker can still send you more spam messages through this link despite ignoring the invitation

What can you do?

The easiest way for users to fight cybercrime is to be aware of the risks and behave with the needed level of skepticism and caution, prevention is always better than cure and it is down to the GCC’s social media users themselves to take responsibility for their safety into their own hands. Good, strong passwords are the key to keeping safe, containing letters and numbers, as well as special characters if possible. Additionally, all major social networking services have specific privacy guidelines and rules that are published on their websites that, despite being tedious to read, are likely to explain if your information is shared with other parties.

As the region’s cybercrime network grows, some of the newer attacks are very sophisticated and are sometimes hard to spot for an untrained eye, making it crucial to use comprehensive security software to protect against these threats and always ensure that the software you use is up-to-date. Not only does this include the operating system and web browser, but also third-party plug-ins, such as PDF viewers. Free tools such as Norton Safe Web for Facebook scan current Facebook news feeds to see if they contain links that are unsafe and provide an easy way for users to protect themselves without forfeiting their day-to-day social media activities.

“At Symantec, we recognize the growing power and utility of social media such as Facebook and others for both personal and business use but the risks associated with careless participation can be potentially devastating. Within Symantec we managed to stop a remarkable 3.2 billion threats in 2010 but we couldn’t achieve this without customers actively taking action to protect themselves. We want to encourage consumers within the GCC to take easy-to-follow steps to enable us to sidestep fraud, identity theft, malware and computer viruses. While some of the challenges that social media, networking and collaboration sites present are more complex, they are ultimately no different than any other communication channel in that we must always protect our private information regardless of the medium in which we are communicating,” said Tamim Taufiq, Head of Consumer Sales for MENA.

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