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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Social networkers' computer (in)security habits: Study

A small survey ("250 consumers") found that, while a majority of social networkers are "afflicted by Web-borne security problems," less than a third of them are doing anything about it, its press release said. The sample is small (more on that in a moment), but the results are suggestive of where social networkers run into trouble as far as computer security's concerned. More than a fifth (21%) of social site users "accept contact offerings [friend requests] from members they don't recognize"; 50+% "let acquaintances or roommates access social networks on their machines"; 64% "click on links [which can lead them to malicious sites] offered by community members or contacts"; 26% "share files within social networks." The study, sponsored by security firm AVG and CMO Council, also found that, in spite of that risky behavior, 64% infrequently or never change their passwords, 57% "infrequently or never" use privacy settings, and 90% "infrequently or never" let the site know they've had problems. Even so, nearly 20% "have experienced identity theft"; 47% have been "victims of malware infections"; and 55% have "seen phishing attacks." But besides the small sample and limited detail on the study, there's another important caveat: "To say that users of social-networking sites have been exposed to phishing and malware would be like saying that most people who eat spinach are likely to have had measles when they were children. There is a correlation, but no evidence of causality," ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid, wrote in his CNET blog. See his blog for some good security advice, and check out ConnectSafely's tips for rock-solid passwords.

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