Be cautious when accepting friend requests on social media networks. If you take a good look at your friends list, you’ll find that you don’t personally know everyone on that list. Accepting friend requests from criminals is fairly easy to do. In addition, it only takes one friend’s carelessness with who is added as a friend to get to your online identity.
The simplest of details, your birthday, phone number, geographical location, and emails, can help a hacker unlock the “account recovery” features of other online accounts. This could lead to gaining access of your bank account, credit cards, and other online identities.
People assume that online security is only necessary for high-security sites like government agencies or financial institutions. Recently, there’s been an increase in cybercriminals that are willing to invest time in trying to con you or hack you. They can use different ways to gain personal information that will help them commit larger crimes later.
By obtaining personal data, online hackers can use the information to add credibility for future attacks. You obviously won’t fall for sending information to wealthy Nigerian’s or banks with Hotmail handles. However, if hackers gain access to your personal information, they can use it and send you requests for information through your friends or family’s pages. You may not think twice about giving confidential information if you trust the requester.
These cyber scammers go after vulnerabilities on less protected social networks such as online games. These sites are seeing an increase in hacking. Hackers are registering fake accounts and then taking over someone else’s legitimate account. Social networks experience a certain percentage of fraudulent account registration. For example, Facebook confirmed that more than 8 percent of its accounts are fake handles.
Hackers begin by sending friend requests to legitimate users. When a user accepts the request, hackers then get access to personal information and friends lists. Many users think that this information is not really security worthy. However, when someone is looking to do damage to your online profile or gain access to your accounts, having the simplest personal information is only the beginning level to get to additional information and then ultimately the final phase of their illegal goal.
The University of British Columbia conducted a study to reveal how much information a hacker can obtain when first breaching your account. A team of students built a “socialbot” that had 102 Facebook profiles. The goal was to see how many random users it could friend while it captured private information from each user and their friends. The results of the eight week study were alarming. The bot was able to build an extended network of one million people. As the bot’s network grew, the friend acceptance rate grew. The bot was able to collect 250GB of personal data including 35 percent of friend’s personal information and 24 percent from extended friend-of-friend’s pages.
See how easy it was for the bot to gain personal information that you may think is harmless. The problem is hackers come up with schemes and when you least suspect it, you’re the target of their scheme. Be very leery of any friend requests from people you don’t know, even if they are a friend-of-a-friend. Don’t fill out any personal information even if it comes from friends or family. Contact your friends or family and find out if they’re really asking you for this information before you complete any innocent requests.