Most users of social networks do not trust the platform enough to reveal personal information about themselves, a security company has revealed.

According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive from February to March 2012, 56% of internet users visit social networks and most do not post personal information about themselves.

At least 27% reported that they had received suspicious links and attachments which were sent in social networks messages.

Malware is often hidden in “friend recommends” on Facebook where the user is prompted to “like” a particular link or is directed to a third party website and instructed to enter login details.

Cybercriminals could potentially take control of a user’s account and distribute the malware to friend lists.

Identity theft

“In general, most users are aware of the threats which social networks may present – 55% of respondents confirming they were familiar with the issue,” Kaspersky Lab, which commissioned the study, told News24.

“Almost the same number of users (56%) do not post important personal data such as their phone number or home address on their social network pages,” the company added.

Experts have often advised that users do not post personal information because of the risk of identity theft.

“They need to realise that actually, you shouldn’t put personal information online. Just because Facebook asks for your home address, doesn’t mean you have to put it on, or if it asks for your age, you don’t have to put it on,” social media consultant for Afrosocialmedia Samantha Fleming told News24.

Criminals though, are constantly trying to trick consumers into revealing personal details in an effort to conduct financial fraud.

Some are concerned that policies at social networks erode the privacy of users in the interest of targeted advertising.

“When Facebook was born, it was born as a family and friends network. If you look at that graph where they’ve changed the privacy… it’s just insane what is more publically available,” said Fleming.

According to the SA Fraud Prevention Service, a non-profit organisation that works to combat fraud, identity theft and financial crime, up to 25 complaints per day relate to identity theft and some estimates put the cost at R1bn a year.

The Harris survey found that while 47% of social network users were accessing platforms via smartphones, insecure Wi-Fi connection left these devices open to being compromised and data stolen from unsuspecting consumers.

Source: News24

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