Saturday, February 19, 2011

Security Epidemic in Online Social Media Websites

Computer hacking and intrusions are getting to an epidemic level, fueled by free flow of information in cyber space.  A computer that is loaded with the latest anti-virus, anti-malware, operating system patches and hot fixes, and running on a well “protected” network can still be easily compromised through web surfing or emails. This statement isn't meant to scare you from using computers, mobile devices, or Internet (after all, our lives depend on these technologies), but to share with you that the security threats posed by online media is high.

It's worthy to suggest, though, that a computer or Internet user must thread cautiously in this thorny Internet battleground. Read any blog, tweet, or other posting on a social website and you would notice that some of these posts may have web links to other websites or links to files that are laced with malware. An attacker could tweet, blog, or post their thoughts or information on a page which awaits an innocent or curious visitor. Trusting the author, the visitor may naively click on the link and land on an infected website. While some of these URLs can be detected to be bogus, many more are difficult to detect.

In summary, here are some ideas for safely surfing the Internet:

1. Make sure you trust a link before you click on it; resist the urge to click
2. Make sure you don't install or download software, even if it looks too good
3. Make sure you have anti-virus software loaded on your system with the latest signatures
4. Make sure your computer and network is secure and well protected
5. Make sure your personal or corporate data are encrypted and backed up to an external media
6. Avoid visiting any website whose integrity or authenticity you question
7. Use a browser that warns you if you visit a malicious website

Conducting your online activities through a virtualized system (virtual machine) or sandboxing browsers may add some protection by preventing malicious software and downloads obtained through your web browser from compromising your system. Once you exit the browser, the malicious software would not make any change to your system. For example, Sandboxie is a good “quarantine” solution – see: for details).

Although the above link is legitimate, did you click on the link? If so, did you think twice before clicking on the link? What about this one?