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Social Network Website Security Issues
We all either have, or know someone who has, an account on one of the major social networking sites. These are now a global phenomenon, but aren't without their problems, particularly where security is concerned.Internet security makes for big news when it is breached, particularly in the cases of the social networking sites. The big 2; Facebook and MySpace, have over 350 million members between them, and it only takes one person to rock the boat.
There is a big deal on both these sites regarding privacy and security, but they are in fact two very different issues. If privacy is breached, where private information is accessed without authority, it doesn`t necessarily mean that there are security issues, if security is breached however, the results can be catastrophic. This arises from a hacker gaining access to the sites private coding or language. This can result is anything from a virus to identity theft.
The most famous, so far, is the Samy worm virus which effectively shut down MySpace in October 2005. Named after its creator, this was a fairly harmless malware that proclaimed `Samy is my hero` at the top of the homepage of everyone infected by it. This was more of an inconvenience than anything else to be honest, as no private information was gleaned and no identities stolen. What it did do, however, was make the MySpace team realize that their security wasn`t anywhere as tight as it should be, and they quickly addressed the issue. There have been no such security breaches since.
It is the way that the sites are used which makes them vulnerable to breaches. The various applications ask for all kinds of information, and if you are a frequent user with lots of friends and numerous applications accessing your information, it stands to reason that you are making things easier for hackers. A Ph.D candidate at Berkeley made headlines last year by exposing a hole which had been left in Facebooks framework. This involved the 3rd party API and allowed for the easy theft of potentially private information. There are thousands of new and unmonitored applications finding their way on to Facebook every day. These are run by 3rd parties and people who sign up for one thing, say a game for example, find that the application changes and is extracting more information than it needs to function. The security of these sites hasn`t, unfortunately, matched their growth in popularity. A great example of this is MySpace. Imagine that it is a prison with 50 inmates, 5 years later there are 250 million, yet still only the same amount of warders, not great statistics and clearly asking for trouble.
Facebook set a great store by their privacy settings, but these are only any use is the users actually bother going into their accounts and setting them! There is no automatic privacy on these sites, and this is where a lot of problems start. To protect your self from potential breaches, there are a few steps to take. Only allow access to longstanding and trusted applications, ensure that you set your privacy to high, do not give any extra information to any application, they don't need your address or bank details to let you play on a farm! When you are chatting with those `friends` who have added you through applications, tell them nothing, you don`t know who you are talking to!
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