Top 5 Social Networking Attacks You Should Dodge

Social Networking Scams Are Here To Stay

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks use a mixture of proactive security monitoring technologies and behavioral analytics to detect anomalous activity from accounts that could signal a problem. But cybercriminals continue to find ways to dupe the system to spread phishing activity and harvest as much user data as possible, said Kevin Haley, director of Symantec Security Response. Haley told CRN that attacks can spread quickly because users are often sent links and offers to scams from people they trust. Learn how to spot five of the biggest scams plaguing social networks.

5. Manual Sharing Scams

These scams have been around for years. They rely on victims to actually do the hard work of sharing the scam by presenting them with intriguing videos, fake offers or messages that they share with their friends, Symantec said.

In the past, the scam often worked by getting the user to "like" an item on their friend's Facebook account for a prize. The click-jacking approach continues to work today, although it is less successful, forcing attackers to use other ways to spread a scam. The distribution method is more difficult to carry out, but if the attacker uses a celebrity name or a shocking title, they can get some traction from users that simply repost the item to their followers, Haley said.

4. Fake Apps

Fake apps have risen overall in 2013, Symantec said. The apps appear to be legitimate but often they contain a malicious payload. Increasingly, the phony apps are designed for mobile devices, and masquerade as rereleased free versions of popular legitimate apps, Haley said.

Haley said one fake app scam that quickly spread to Japanese smartphone users purported to convince them that it could turn their phone screen into a solar panel to quickly recharge the device battery. The app was designed as a joke, but it could have been used to harvest data. Other apps use aggressive advertising tactics to sell the user's data and browsing habits to a third-party advertising network.

3. Like-jacking

Using fake "Like" buttons, attackers trick users into clicking website buttons that install malware and may post updates on a user’s newsfeed, spreading the attack, Symantec said. Security vendors have gotten better at spotting the malicious code that enables the attack to work, Haley said.

A common scam that attempts to get users to enable a phony Facebook "Dislike" button continues to get detected from time to time, Haley said. Any service that attempts to get the user to copy and paste JavaScript or a link into their browser is a big scam-warning sign.

2. Fake Plug-In Scams

Users are increasingly being tricked into downloading fake browser extensions onto their computers, according to Symantec. Rogue browser extensions can pose like legitimate extensions but when installed they steal data, including passwords and other sensitive information from the infected system. Plug-in scams can be spotted if they offer to provide additional features on the social network, Haley said.

A Facebook Black plug-in scam quickly spread on Facebook in March. The attackers enticed users by tricking them into installing a browser extension to add a dark look to the Facebook page. Instead it directed victims to a set of surveys to harvest their personal information. The fake plug-in spread by automatically creating a new Facebook page on the victim's account. The scam was hosted on Amazon's S3 cloud storage service before it was finally shut down.

1. Fake Offering

Fake offer attacks use free gift cards and other offers to trick users of social networks to join a fake event or group. Symantec said the scam has increased significantly in recent months and currently makes up 82 percent of all social media attacks in 2013. If the offer requires the user to share credentials or send a text to a phone number, it’s a likely sign that the offer is too good to be true, said Symantec's Haley.

"Often these offers can come from a friend," Haley said. "The friend's account gets hijacked and it's their friend suggesting that they click on a link; not just some random stranger or pop-up."