Security Issues Holding Back Social Media’s Potential

Too Many Concerns That Still Need Addressed

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[ Social Media]

Social Media’s rise in popularity has created some very real problems for the Internet and its users. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have seemingly opened the floodgates to security troubles, and over the past few weeks, this has been accentuated by a number of issues and studies.

As WebProNews recently reported, based on a study from Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law, time on social networking sites has increased by 73% in the past year. Without even taking security into consideration, 51% of executives surveyed said they fear social media could reduce employee productivity, while 49% said that using social media could damage a company’s reputation.

Now consider that social network users are more vulnerable to security risks. This is the theme of another study recently released by AVG and CMO Council. This indicates that most social network users fail to perform the following basic security measures on a regular basis:

- Changing passwords (64% infrequently or never)

– Adjusting privacy settings (57% infrequently or never)

– Informing their social network administrator (90% infrequently or never)

Here are some more stats from that one:

- 21% accept contact offerings from members they don’t recognize

– Over half let acquaintances or roommates access social networks on their machines

–  64% click on links offered by community members or contacts

–  26% share files within social networks

– Nearly 20% have experienced identity theft

– 47% have been victims of malware infections

– 55% have seen phishing attacks

A recent report from the Web Hacking Incidents Database (WHID) found that 19% of hacking incidents occurred on social networks in the first half of this year. They were the most heavily-targeted vertical.

Here Come the Criminals

Criminals are using social networks to target people in the real world. A report from The Digital Criminal, found that 38% of users of sites like Facebook and Twitter have posted status updates saying when they are away for the weekend.

Changes to status updates and posts when going away

According to that same report, 23% of social media users have discussed vacation plans "wall-to-wall" outside the privacy of their own page and 17% have reported seeing people’s residential addresses posted on pages that can be seen by strangers.

Now this reflects social network users’ practices regarding their own personal lives. You have to wonder what that means for these same users’ professional (there is often a fine line there anyway) social media habits. Some other startling statistics from that report can be reviewed here.

Some Areas of Concern

Let’s just look at some recently discussed issues regarding security at Twitter and Facebook. You of course have the recent denial-of-service attacks on Twitter and Facebook. You’ve got the issue of accounts being hijacked. In fact, a giant hole in Twitter was discovered last week that Twitter has yet to even acknowledge on their blogs.

Not only are evil-doers able to exploit social network users’ profiles, but a study from Worcester Polytechnic Institute found that social networks are even selling their users out by making personal information available to companies that track users’ browsing habits and allow them to link anonymous browsing habits to specific people. This gives some a general creepy feeling.

Of course there are always spam issues in the mix as well. Short URL spam was a big threat in August. Some URL-shortening services have even had to shut down as a result.

What Are the Networks doing?

It wouldn’t be fair to say that the social networks have ignored security issues. They haven’t. But are they doing enough? Twitter recently began trying to block links to malicious sites when users try to post them. Facebook has spent some time trying to improve the process of helping users gain back their hacked accounts.

But the threats are still out there, and they seem to be increasing much more rapidly than they’re being eliminated. These are not easy problems, and I have no doubt that the social networks take them very seriously, but until people can really feel comfortable about the medium, I think its potential is going to be hampered.

As long as threats remain so prevalent, so will reluctance. That goes for businesses and individuals alike. Yes, social media adoption continues to grow rapidly, but there are many still out there who do not see the point, at least at the price of security.

There is progress to be made, and it likely will be made. Once we get over that hump, this social web thing should really take off.

Security Issues Holding Back Social Media’s Potential
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    Some issues come out, but these issues can’t prevent the social media from progressing.

    • Chris Crum

      I don’t think they will keep social media itself from progressing, but the potential of what can be done with it is being hampered I think. In fact, though it seems at times everyone is using social media, there are many that don’t want anything to do with things like Twitter or Facebook, just because of security and privacy issues.

  • Jean Issler

    I have more than once advised friends about something they posted on Facebook that could cause them harm. One was a young man who was frustrated with the job interview he had that day and he complained about the employer. It was fine to share that with friends, but not where the employer could possibly see it.

    FB, Twitter and others should provide more education to their users about the the public arena that users are entering. Users get to having fun and chatting and they forget that they are in a “public place” when on line. LinkedIn does a much better job of cautioning its users.

    Thank you for sharing this information. I found it valuable.

  • http://www.belarc.com/ neel bee

    Lately, many people have had trouble accessing their Facebook Inboxes (including me), which the Owners say they’re working on. I have had enormous trouble beyond that, not even being able to post to others’ Walls etc. Anyone else having lots of FB trouble? Any idea, what’s behind it? Note this relevant recent post here:

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    I strongly surpport the above thinkingvideo converter

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