Cyber criminals have caught on to the immense popularity of social networking sites. Recent research from security firm AVG found the 50 most popular social networking sites were linked to nearly 20,000 malicious web pages.
The trend is not a surprise to security experts, who have found malware attacks traditionally target the most popular technologies and devices. In fact, the world’s largest social networking site, Facebook, which boasts more than 500 million registered users, was the largest target for recent social networking malware campaigns. Of the nearly 20,000 compromised web pages revealed in the study, Facebook was targeted by 11,701.
The recent trend does show a new dynamic in modern malware attacks, as these malicious web pages target younger computer users who are more likely to register with social networking sites. This can be successful for cyber criminals, as younger users may be less likely to install protective anti-malware software than email networks for businesses or major organizations.
“In particular, it is the audience most active on these sites, the under 25s, who are most at risk,” said Tony Anscombe, AVG’s head of free products, V3 reports.
Separate research has found younger computer users do not take their online security standards seriously enough. According to the Canberra Times, a recent study found just 15 percent of British internet users between the ages of 16 and 24 said they care about internet security, compared to 23 percent of older respondents. Similarly, only 9 percent of respondents in the age group said they care about privacy.
The security firm’s findings are expected to prompt younger internet users to prioritize their internet security standards. Social networking is not showing any signs of slowing down, with Twitter recently surpassing the 300 million user milestone and young social networking site Foursquare reaching 3 million already. As the number of potential targets continues to expand, the amount of malware targeting them will continue to grow as well.
“The fact that we found almost 20,000 compromised web pages should make social media users sit up and take notice,” Ascombe said, according to V3.
Online video sharing website YouTube was also a rich source for malware, composing 7,163 of the study’s 19,491 compromised web pages. For example, a recent YouTube campaign linked malware to the comment section of videos of teenage singer Justin Bieber, infiltrating users who search for his popular music.
The technique, however, has become most successful while targeting Facebook because cyber criminals can access log-in information and further spread malware through status updates and messages, according to the study.
Users of all ages who register with social networking sites can safeguard their computers from the threats involved with the popular media.