Due to a recent increase in hacking into online social networks, the issue of security in these sites is currently a matter of great concern. There has been much talk on how unscrupulous individuals can abuse the personal data of site users.
The LinkedIn Hacking Incident
LinkedIn, an online professional network, has lately been the target of hacking that compromised the passwords of numerous users. Security firms claim that this is one of the largest incidents of cyber crime that has ever occurred. It’s the most recent in a series of worldwide attacks that have endangered the personal data of millions.
Related to this event, the dating site eHarmony, as well as the British social network LastFM, have lately revealed that a number of its users’ passwords have also been stolen in the past few days.
An Upsurge of Hackings Into Social Networks
Many social networks have recently been broken into. It has been discovered that several million passwords have been stolen and posted on underground websites frequented by cyber criminals. According to security analysts, those who stole the passwords are likely able to access the corresponding accounts.
Hackers have displayed an increasing interest in social networks. Financial organizations used to be the main focus of attack, but as of April 2012, networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have become the primary targets.
Why Social Networks?
Security experts have been investigating why social network sites are hackers paradise. The attributes of sites like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest make it easy for people to assume the identity of someone else. Hackers who can enter into a person’s account can also access that user’s data, then fraudulently interact with his contacts.
The main strategy cyber criminals employ is called phishing. Bogus messages or e-mails are sent to site users, claiming to represent the network or company. People are deceived into keying-in their passwords or personal information, thus unknowingly giving phishers free access into their accounts. Established e-mail giants like Gmail or Hotmail have more stringent features against phishing and spam, but social networks are not quite as well-equipped.
Hackers also have high-tech methods of cracking passwords, engaging various tools to access personal data. One such technique is using specially-written software that can try thousands of character permutations in a matter of minutes. In relation to the LinkedIn incident, experts have pointed out that LinkedIn has not been using the strongest security measures. The site has simply employed a basic encryption method for protecting passwords, which did not pose much of a challenge for hackers.
Another factor that contributes to the susceptibility of social networks to cyber crime, according to experts, is that a number of these networks outsource programmers to develop their applications.
Increased Security Measures
Since the attacks, LinkedIn has begun to take improved security procedures. The professional networking site has since then applied stronger features, including special encryption techniques to protect user passwords, as well as a stricter login process.
Facebook has also taken the initiative to fortify security. The site has enforced a new Code Generator as well as anti-spam measures, specifically for users who access their accounts via Android devices or mobile phones. In addition to this, Facebook users can enforce security measures using their mobiles: if their account is hacked, they can lock it down, reset their password and reclaim their account.
[Read also: How to Enable Secure Connection on Facebook]
Security firms advise users to strengthen their passwords by using complex combinations of letters, numbers and symbols, preferably alternating lowercase and uppercase characters. Words, names and dates are considered weak, easily-hacked passwords. It is also advisable to use different passwords for each account and change those passwords regularly.
Many cyber criminals are clever enough to outsmart even the strongest security features of government websites, so social networking accounts are likely a piece of cake for them. It would be safe to assume that anyone can be a target; always exercise caution in choosing passwords and when posting any information online.
[Recommended read: 5 Good Reasons You Should Be Using Social Media to Find Jobs]
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