Home How Vulnerable Are Your Facebook Friends to Attacks?

How Vulnerable Are Your Facebook Friends to Attacks?

Even as Facebook moves to improve and simplify privacy options for the social network’s 750 million users, a group of independent researchers are proposing even greater security measures, specifically for those social networks that place control and responsibility squarely in the hands of users.

The researchers are presenting their findings this afternoon at the ACM Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining in San Diego. They’ve created an index that lets users determine how vulnerable their Facebook friends are to the the myriad of attacks occurring on social networks (see sidebar below) and hope to develop an app based on their research. While they have yet to determine when an app like that could be launched, their easily digestible report is available now.

The Types of Malicious Activities Occurring on Social Networks
•Malicious scripts
•Hacked accounts
•Malicious tagging of user content
•Hacking into anonymous data to extract personal user information
•Sybyl Attacks that involve the creation of false I.D.s to carry out malicious activities

The researchers looked at 2 million Facebook users and assigned a vulnerability index to each account based not only on the individual’s behavior and privacy settings but those of their friends as well. The upshot is that your privacy is only as secure as the weakest link (person) in your network of friends.

The solution, says Pritam Gundecha, a computer science PhD student at Arizona State University and one of the authors of the study, is to unfriend those with questionable behaviors or friends who have not set their privacy controls to acceptable levels.

If you don’t wish to unfriend someone, you can make them aware of their vulnerabilities and to ask them to address them, says Gundecha, whose studies focus on social media security.

The three researchers, including Geoffrey Barbier and Huan Liu of Arizona State, hope to develop a Facebook application that will let users see the privacy attributes of their friends. The work is based on a relatively simple mathematical model that uses public information, says Gundecha.

Yesterday Facebook published its 20-page Guide to Facebook Security that’s well worth the read. It’s available as a downloadable PDF.

What would you do if you discovered a Facebook friend was a security risk? Unfriend them? Ask them to change their online behavior?

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