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Users of Online Social Networking Inviting Cyber Crooks

A research by Sophos has revealed that 41% of users would willingly declare personal information like phone number, e-mail address and date of birth to even strangers, thus increasing the chances of their succumbing to identity theft.

Sophos conducted an experiment with Facebook by setting up a sting operation on it. The test revealed that the true risks of security threats might exist in online social networking. For that, the company created a false identity around a toy frog called "Freddi Staur", which invited 200 users of Facebook to cultivate friendship with it.

It was frightening to find how easily users got convinced and accepted Freddi, said Ron O'Brien, security analyst at Sophos. Batanews published this on August 14, 2007. Of the number of users Freddi invited, 87 got back with positive response, and 82 divulged personal identification details to Freddi's account.

Without requiring hacking, the toy was able to collect a precious lot of users' personal data. Nearly 73 people got ready to put up their birthday on the site, while many would also give their places of birth, pictures of friends and family, employers' names and addresses, professional resumes, and in one case, the maiden name of the user's mother.

Security experts describe the problem as the one where young boys and girls consider their Web pages like their bedrooms. They think only the invitees can see their actions and behavior on those pages. But without turning on the privacy settings, these people allow others to reach their confidential details.

While accepting requests for friendship may not directly result in theft, it's an encourager giving cyber crooks opportunities to fake identities, reach online user accounts, or intercept computer networks of their employers, said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. Inquirer published this on August 15, 2007.

Facebook is not the only social networking site where users face danger of information swapping. In January, four families sued MySpace for enabling sexual abuse on their teenage daughters by some adult visitors on the site.

Sophos advises users to set the privacy controls on their Facebook accounts to protect their profiles.

Related article: Users Making Opening Online Accounts To Identify Thefts

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