As the recent Ashley Madison and New York Times hacking stories indicate, hacking is on the rise, and the internet has become an increasingly risky place to be. Cybersecurity risks lurk even in familiar places, and it’s unfortunate but true that these popular web apps all number among the most risky to use.
Guess what? Most hackers follow the numbers: and sites which have more users are likely going to attract more hackers. And Facebook is the easy target; with over 500 million users, it’s a veritable field day for those wanting to dig up the personal information of users… and Facebook has a relatively poor track record of thwarting them.
Early on in Facebook history, for example, was the Koobface virus: hackers simulated the accounts of popular people on Facebook, and launched invitations and information to everyone on their actual facebook profile’s contact list. This clever malware stole logins, financial data and credit card information, personal information, and engaged in deep identity theft.
And back in 2011, almost an entire country’s worth of Facebook passwords were being collected in Tunisia; Facebook was eventually able to leverage a large-scale response to the problem, but the fact remains that Facebook has vulnerabilities. So many, in fact, that many websites even publish comprehensive guides on how to hack Facebook accounts or crack Facebook passwords.
Facebook isn’t the only large social media app with issues! Twitter’s micro-blogging platform also has its own problems: usually in the form of URLS posted to encourage users to unwittingly download malware. Hackers will often emulate the profiles of famous or popular people, gain a great deal of followers, and then trick their contacts into opening links with malware or viruses.
Recently, a worm compromised the accounts of thousands of users particularly cleverly: it enticed them to download faux-antivirus software which had been written specifically to steal login credentials and to allow hackers to take full control of an infected computer.
Twitter has been the subject of dozens of major phishing attacks, and since Twitter has notoriously poor password protections, and even experienced a major hack earlier this same year.
URL Shortening Web Apps
Twitter is a magnet for hackers; and there’s one service that’s tightly linked to Twitter which has been attracting more hackers as well! And that’s URL shortening web-apps like TinyURL. This is in great part because, since tweets max out in length at 140 characters, users shorten urls they intend to share so that they can use more characters in the tweet, rather than devoting them to the URL.
But unfortunately, URL shortening also allows hackers to hide malicious links behind the screen of a shortened URL which looks perfectly harmless and legitimate. This makes it incredibly easy to dupe users into clicking infected links. It’s such a significant issue that Twitter has made a move to partner with many url shortening services to stop hackers in their tracks: but they’re still out there, and the problem isn’t entirely gone.
Youtube is another source of problems; and in very similar ways to Twitter. Hackers will copy popular accounts with a dummy page, and incorporate malicious clickable links in some of the videos they post. Worse, some hackers will create a beefy profile on Youtube, and then send other Youtube users links to videos titled things like, ‘I caught a video of you!!’, but the links mask malicious code.
News Websites & Apps
News websites usually have big numbers of followers; and since they’re usually very much in the public eye, they’re often an immediate target for hackers. Worse, they can be the targets of two different kinds of hackers: those wanting to make public or political statements with their hacks, and those wanting to gain private information from their users.
Recently, the New York Times was famously hacked and compromised, and Forbes recently gave many of its users malware– through its ads!
Practice Common Sense Safety
How do you protect yourself when even the most legitimate and useful websites and apps pose such big security risks? Practice common sense. Install good virus protection software and run it regularly. keep it updated, too! And do a little bit of investigation before opening links; verify that they’re from someone you trust, and that they can tell you where the link directs. Know your control panel, too, and be on the lookout for unfamiliar programs showing up on your task manager.
Always use strong credentials, and create strong passwords. Also, change your passwords relatively regularly; once or twice a year. If at all possible, engage in two-factor login authentications, which will help keep hackers out of your profiles and accounts.