UK Survey Finds Social Networking Sites Raise Security Risks - InformationWeek
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UK Survey Finds Social Networking Sites Raise Security Risks

Out of the 10.8 million in the UK signed up for social sites, one in four have posted confidential or personal information, according to "Get Safe Online."

New research from an online security organization backed by the UK government and technology companies finds that despite increased awareness of Internet security issues and wide use of Internet security software, computer users are raising their risk online through their use of social networking sites and wireless Internet connections.

Get Safe Online, with the help of research firm ICM, conducted a survey of 2,013 people age 18 and older in the U.K. and found that "only 80% have anti-virus software and only half of them keep it up-to-date."

Given that some percentage of those without anti-virus software could be using Macintosh computers, which really haven't needed anti-virus software until recently, the 80% figure doesn't seem particularly troubling.

But if, as the survey suggests, only half of the users of anti-virus software bother to keep their virus protection current, that goes a long way toward explaining why there are so many malicious network programs -- called bots -- these days.

Perhaps more worrisome is the finding that of the 10.8 million people in the UK who have registered with a social networking site, one in four have posted confidential or personal information, thereby increasing the risk of identity theft fraud.

Tony Neate, managing director of Get Safe Online, warned in a statement against revealing too much online.

"Although some of these details may seem harmless, they actually provide rich pickings for criminals," he said. "Your date of birth and where you live is enough for someone to set up a credit card in your name. So whilst most people wouldn't give this information to a stranger in real life, they will happily post it online where people they don't know can see it."

Get Safe Online's survey also found that 7.8 million people in the UK have unprotected wireless networks. Open Wi-Fi networks represent a significant vulnerability, according to the organization.

The survey further found that some 36% of Internet users report that they, a friend or member of their family have been the victim of a computer virus. About 9% report having had their PC hacked. And almost half of all businesses in the UK have experienced e-crime.

There was some good news however: "The good news is that a few basic steps and simple precautions are enough to prevent these problems and stop online criminals in their tracks," Neate said.

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