Social networks: 'Hit all once' - attackers' perspective

Swanand Dattaram Shinde Quick Heal

Social networking sites have created distinct ways in which to communicate and share information, which have made them an enduring part of the every-day life of millions of users worldwide. They are extremely popular amongst a wide range of users of cyber space, and most users draw little distinction between their real life and online life. People have started using social networking sites as a platform to create, maintain and grow their private and business networks, to search for their lost ones, to share their emotions and thoughts etc., hence they have become extremely popular on the web. Social networking site models are based on the traditional social networking ideology of mankind, so their pros and cons always keep them in the limelight. This is the time to think seriously: 'Are they becoming a bad guys' paradise?'.

Social networking sites are attractive to bad guys not only because of potential security holes in them, but because the nature of the sites themselves works as a way to affect more people. This paper demonstrates all of the risks in using social networking sites and various other techno-social issues. It also explains in detail with real-world case studies about mass phishing and spamming attacks, cyber stalking and cyber bullying using social networking sites. The paper gives a crystal clear idea about the changing threat landscape and explores the attackers' motive: 'Hit all once'.

Identity is the major concern while surfing on web, but case studies of many of the social networking sites surprisingly highlight that they are prone to organized crimes. Poorly organized and less well secured social networking sites are increasing in number. Using analysis of real-world cases, this paper uncovers many of the emerging cyber security issues surrounding the use of social networking sites - such as cyber terrorism, violation of copyright laws by sharing video and audio, supporting activities for the illegal drug trade, sharing of pornographic material, financial e-frauds, child pornography etc. The paper explains the six degrees of separation phenomenon to make us realize that bad guys are never far from us. This emerging techno-social threat to cyber security doesn't have a concrete pure technical solution. The paper sums up with an effective action plan for each category of cyber user to be protected on a social network and to make it more secure.


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