Facebook users warned of phishing dangers

41% happy to hand out personal data to strangers.

Research carried out by Sophos has found that 41% of users of hugely popular social networking site Facebook risk revealing sensitive personal information to total strangers.

The study involved creating a user on the site under the name 'Freddi Staur' (an anagram of 'ID fraudster') and contacting 200 randomly selected members of Facebook's 35-million-strong online community with a 'friend request', to which 87 users responded, many of them revealing email addresses, dates of birth, employment information, home addresses and even phone numbers. Several provided complete resumes, while one even revealed his mother's maiden name. The data thus gained could be invaluable to phishers, identity thieves and other fraudsters.

Sophos suggests that too many Facebook users fail to make use of the security features available, leaving the fairly open default settings unchanged - a Facebook spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal (in an article available to WSJ subscribers here) that only 20% of users change the settings from the defaults. Facebook also insists that it monitors its users' activities and regularly shuts down accounts which appear to be abusing the system to gather potentially sensitive data, including it seems the fake 'Freddi Staur' user.

Details of the study from Sophos are here, and a guide to securing Facebook accounts is also provided, here.

Tags: identity theft, phishing, research, social networking, user education. Posted on 14 August 2007 by Virus Bulletin.

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