The results of an AVG and CMO Council poll highlight the vulnerabilities and concerns of social community members around cyber security and the precautions that they are taking or need to take to protect themselves. While the social networking community has serious concerns about the overall security of public spaces, few are taking the most basic of steps to protect themselves against online crimes.
The results show that while the majority of social networking users are afflicted by web-borne security problems, less than one third are taking actions to protect themselves online.
Participants indicated concern over growing phishing, spam and malware attacks, and nearly half of those surveyed are very concerned about their personal identity being stolen in an online community.
The survey was conducted online during the second quarter of 2009 and gathered responses from a random sampling of more than 250 consumers. According to the poll results, despite widespread use (86 percent) of social networks at home and/or at work, most fail to perform the following basic security measures on a regular basis:
- Changing passwords (64 percent infrequently or never)
- Adjusting privacy settings (57 percent infrequently or never)
- Informing their social network administrator (90 percent infrequently or never).
Despite the apparent security risks and dangers of engaging in social networking sites, respondents identified several common practices that could cause harm to unprotected users:
- 21 percent accept contact offerings from members they don’t recognize
- More than half let acquaintances or roommates access social networks on their machines
- 64 percent click on links offered by community members or contacts
- 26 percent share files within social networks.
As a result of this widespread proliferation of links, files, and unsolicited contacts, users have experienced high levels of breaches and threats:
- Nearly 20 percent have experienced identity theft
- 47 percent have been victims of malware infections
- 55 percent have seen phishing attacks.
AVG encourages users to follow six simple steps to stay secure
1. Do not accept pop-ups or prompts for software, unless you’re armed with web scanner software such as AVG’s free LinkScanner, which checks each site for infections prior to access.
2. Do not ever provide, post, or submit any confidential personal data (e.g., SSN, banking details, medical records). Social networking sites do not require this sort of information to join, unless you’re online dating or paying monthly.
3. Change your password at least once a month. Do not change it if you’re prompted to. This can be a third party malicious link.
4. Do not let friends, peers, coworkers, etc. access their social networks on your computer, nor yours on their machine. Others could introduce infections to your computer through unsafe practices, or your login security could be compromised via cookies saved on your computer.
5. Never auto save your password information, and clear your history at least once a week.
6. Do not accept friend requests or request friends that you personally do not know.