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Social Networks & Social Engineering – What a Pair

When we started this service we knew that one of our main goals was to “get the word out” on how websites have been in the line of fire for cybercriminals. We published a report, “How Cybercriminals Use Your Website to Distribute their Malware”, but found not many people were interested in what we had to say. We blamed on it “head in the sand” mentality.

We looked to the Internet Marketing world to see how they do it. Some of them have actually sold thousands of e-books for as much as $27 a piece. They must know some secret that we didn’t.

Our studying introduced us to the works of some big name Internet Marketers (IMers). Names like Frank Kern, Jeff Walker, Brian Clark, Yanik Silver and many others all seemed to resonate one key strategy – build community. On of their favorite strategies is using social networks to build this community of loyal followers.

I shouldn’t say it’s one of their strategies, it’s one of their tactics. Their strategy is to always provide something of value. The social networks is just one way they suggest you use to distribute your valuable message.

Using social networks seemed like a great idea so I set out to explore this value distribution tactic. I did this with my ever present security guard on – that’s how I roll.

My exploration included sites like: Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn and FastPitch.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be revealing my findings and then suggest ways (tactics) you can protect your informational assets while taking advantage of social networks.

I titled this posting “Social Networks & Social Engineering – What a Pair” because many of the tactics of cybercriminals revolve around social engineering which is the art of deceiving others into clicking on a link that you think is safe.

As I write this, I’ve been bombarded with emails about people who received errors while trying to view your profile on Facebook. What happens is when someone clicks on your profile they get an error saying that they could find out the problem by installing the “Error Check System”. You’ll get notifications that “X” number of people have been getting errors while viewing your profile and this “application” will help you determine the cause.

If you Google “Error Check System” Facebook, at least one of the links takes you to an infectious website that will display a message telling you you’re infected with a virus and offers to scan your system. Of course, this is a social engineering attempt. If you agree to the scan, you’ll be downloading a virus. This has been a very popular tactic of cybercriminals lately. They have even started creating websites that offer reviews of anti-virus software – more social engineering, to earn your trust.

I thought the timing of this Facebook “Error Check System” scam was perfect for me to start this series.

Come on back and read the follow-ups.

If you’ve had any experiences with one of the social networking sites, post a comment and let us know.

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Malware and Internet Marketing Methods

Everyone knows that in order to be successful online you have to have visitors and buyers – makes sense right?

In working toward getting this site more visitors and thus more buyers (clients) I’ve studied many of the methods that some of the top Internet Marketing people have promoted. Building a community of readers is one way of getting and keeping visitors.

People like Frank Kern, Jeff Walker and many others promote using Web 2.0 to promote your site. They recommend and use sites like Twitter and Facebook. I’ll admit to having an account on both sites and I try to make some worthy posts on both, however, the security gnome inside me keeps wondering how safe are these sites. Okay, there’s no wondering, I know how safe they aren’t.

I personally know of many people who have been burned by fake emails purporting to be from someone they know, or someone who found them on Facebook, telling them to view a video online or view a document online only to fall victim to this social engineering tactic and become infected. When you see the amount of infected websites that I see everyday, you might be less likely to just click on any website.

For instance, Twitter has a message size limit of 141 characters. Many people will post a link on when they “Tweet” (ugh!). Often times, I’ve seen postings that use tinyurls. This is a service that allows you to place a very long URL into a shortened version that links directly to www.tinyurl.com, which then redirects you to the original link. Any cybercriminal could use this same service (and has) to masquerade their intended infectious website.

You see cybercriminals are extremely intelligent and crafty. They go where the masses go. If everyone’s going to Facebook, cybercriminals will be all over that site trying to find ways to use Facebook’s strengths to exploit the weakest link in any security strategy – human curiosity.  I’ve seen emails with wording like, “Unless you really need to (fill-in the blank) , please don’t click on this link as we can only handle a certain amount of traffic.” And I’m sure they get a lot of people clicking on that link just because they want to know what’s on the other side.

I can’t emphasize it enough. You have to be wary of every email you get that looks like it’s from some social networking site. Every email.

While I agree with Frank Kern and Jeff Walker about using Web2.0 tools to promote your site, I also worry about all those unsuspecting Internet Marketing rookies that will undoubtedly fall victim to some scam running on one of those sites.

Back in December 2008, Facebook users were subjected to the Koobface worm. This worm infected many by sending bogus emails to Facebook users taunting them with subject lines like; “Check you out in this video”. When the user clicks on the link in the email, they’re either redirected to a malware delivery site, or told they need to download a file in order to view the video. The file downloaded is the infection.

Many Facebook walls had these same malicious links posted so anyone who visited that persons profile would at least be presented with the infectious offering.

In January of 2009, users of the social networking site LinkedIn were subjected to bogus profiles of some top name celebrities. Names such as: Beyonce Knowles, Victoria Beckham, Christina Ricci, Kirsten Dunst, Salma Hayek and Kate Hudson were among the list of stars with bogus profiles. People clicking on these sites were offered various temptations – each one an infectious present.

Anyone else have any stories about someone falling victim to a social networking, socially engineered attack?

Leave a comment if you have one.