We all knew this was coming. As Social Networks gained in popularity, they'd become more juicy targets. Now we're starting to see some data.According to a sample of brands used in MarkMonitor's brandjacking index, phishing attacks, overall, are up 36 percent for the first three months of this year compared to the same year ago period. Considering how prevalent phishing attacks have become, it's almost hard to believe they can continue to grow. Really: what is saturation plus more? But that's a digression.
Phishing attacks on social networking sites increased more than 240 percent compared to the same time last year, just behind attacks on payment services, which jumped a whopping 285 percent versus the first quarter of '08. "They exploit the trust one user has with another [on a social network]. There's a tendency to open up something from one of your 'friends' on these sites," says Frederick Felman, chief marketing officer at MarkMonitor. "This is the biggest innovation in phishing attacks since RockPHISH, and it's more social than technical exploitation. RockPHISH was an infrastructure play, but this is using someone else's infrastructure to spread the badness."
The good news, however, is that social networks are relatively quick to shut down phishing attacks on their sites, Felman says.
It is good news that social networks are clamping down quickly. But what this ultimately means is that the attackers are going to adapt their tactics. And, I expect, these trends will become more pronounced as a result:
1. Highly-targeted "spear" phishing attacks will become even more common.
2. Large-scale attacks, with extraordinarily high numbers of targeted users, that begin and end within minutes will also become more common.
3. Legitimate accounts will be hacked, in greator numbers, to commit fast "smash and grab" like digital attacks on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Ultimately, this means the trustworthiness of social network users, as well as Web sites in general, will need to be better established and vetted even more quickly.
Also, you had better hope that that link, or attachment, or whatever being sent to you by your "friend" is really coming from your friend - and not someone who just hacked your friend's account.
This area of information security -- the abuse of social networks through both technical and social engineering attacks -- is just getting started.